Editor’s Note: This column has been crossposted on EJewishPhilanthropy.com and The Jewish News of Northern California (JNews.com).
I want to bring an idea to you, an idea whose time may be at hand. It is an idea that was presented at a recent think tank sponsored by Jewish Sacred Aging and the Coalition to Transform Advanced Care (C-TAC). At the end of March we brought together some two dozen individuals from around the country, all of whom, in some form or another, are working in aspects of Judaism and aging. Some of those who came to that day long meeting in Philadelphia have done pod casts on our site. A highlight of the day was a discussion led by Jim Firman who is President and CEO of NCOA, the National Council on Aging. Jim challenged the group to begin to think about creating a movement that would galvanize elders around the concept of “sacred responsibility”.
Many of us have begun to seriously think about the next stage of our life, a stage that, given the wild cards of health, money and time, may last decades. The spiritual question that meets us is what do we wish to do with the time we have left, knowing that we cannot control that time. We also are coming to know, and research supports this, that this next stage has the potential to be the most dynamic and creative of all of our life stages. Our generation, and all Boomers in the USA are now over 50, are bringing our unique generational history into aging. Will we choose leisure over community, social action over social inertia? Much of the cultural changes in American society were brought about in our generation so we wait to see if we will continue this agenda in our own aging or succumb to the seduction of the sedentary. We are already seeing, through the success of the Encore career movement, a desire to “give back” and to reinvent life.
Firman’s call for “sacred responsibility” was based on a belief that we are the most affluent, best educated and secure Jewish community and cohort in Jewish history. Given that reality, he asked, do we not have a “sacred responsibility” to dedicate this third stage of life to the actualization of the core values of Judaism. Within our generation is a massive reservoir of life experience. Think about what our generation could achieve if we spoke, wrote, and modeled a vision of our own aging as one of bringing the very values of our tradition in to the world. Just as the Grey Panthers, years ago began to change the way society looked at elders, the question is are we now at a time for a new revolution of elders; a revolution would call for greater human involvement with other generations and causes that speak to the core values of our tradition.
This call to organize around the idea of “sacred responsibility” is embryonic. I write this with a hope that some of you will take the time to respond. I sense that there is, in many communities, a desire to model and teach and be involved with the issues of the day in ways that would redefine what aging means and to model positive and interactive life choices for the coming generations. I look forward to your comments to RabbiAddress@jewishsacredaging.com.
Rabbi Richard F. Address