Start spreading the news….!
Actually, the census has already done that.
The aging of the baby boomer generation is now in full swing and, as we are beginning to see, the pundits and experts are beginning to take notice. The discussions on entitlements will be revved up in the coming years as we begin to contemplate our own need to tap into them and worry if our children will have the same luxury (or ability).
Yet, so many of us are working and have no plans to stop. We may have plans to transition into something new, but, stopping work is becoming more challenging as the economy struggles to rebound. Likewise, we are still facing many challenges that the longevity revolution has wrought. I have plenty of company in the extended role of care-giver, which has become a new life stage.
The new year also brings with us a slew of new laws. One that has particular meaning and importance for us is the provision that physicians will be compensated for wellness visits. (See this article from the Palm Beach Post). The boomer emphasis on staying young, keeping fit and healthy had much to do with this, I think. The provision also asks that my doctor begin a conversation with me regarding end of life issues. For some strange and bizarre reason, this provision has been attacked by conservative thinkers. Why, I cannot understand.
Not only should my doctor begin these conversations, but, I believe that every synagogue MUST, on an annual basis, have a major program that deals with this issue.
How does Judaism understand end of life decision making? What do the texts teach us? How much autonomy do I really have within Jewish thought? Is human life an absolute value? Are there limits or times when the “mitzvah” may really be to allow a life to end in dignity and sanctity? Is pain and suffering a value to be upheld within Jewish life? These are questions that every rabbi has been asked; and with the spread of technology and the longevity of our lives, they will be asked with greater frequency.
There already are many resources to guide these discussions. Our own A Time to Prepare is a document that helps guide a person through what Reform tradition says, and includes forms for advance directives and health care power of attorney.
Each denomination has a similar document. It is no longer an option for your congregation to do this program. It is more essential than ever and can, in a very real way, help people navigate what if for many, a difficult journey.
I hope that this new year of 2011 brings to each of you a year of great joy and peace and health.. I also encourage you to ask you congregation or community to schedule this conversation for sometime in the next few months.
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min, is the Founder and Director of www.jewishsacredaging.com. Rabbi Address served for over three decades on staff of the Union for Reform Judaism; first as a Regional Director and then, beginning in 1997, as Founder and Director of the URJ’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns and served as a specialist and consultant for the North American Reform Movement in the areas of family related programming. Rabbi Address was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1972 and began his rabbinic career in Los Angeles congregations. He also served as a part time rabbi for Beth Hillel in Carmel, NJ while regional director and, after his URJ tenure, served as senior rabbi of Congregation M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ from 2011-2014.