Dr. Marc Agronin has written a trendy and challenging book, recently published by Life Long Press, entitled “The End of Old Age”. In his opening, he writes that “Aging is an inevitable one-way journey and we fret along the way and plot all sorts of manners to stave off or cushion the bumps and blows…aging i sthe solution and not the problem.” (p.7) Agronin, who is a certified geriatric psychologist, is one of a growing number of people writing, it seems for we Boomers, as we realize that we are all getting older and that those sands of time really are drifting slowly down.
He offers a path that is defined by a desire to see in our own aging a time for growth and a time to thrive.”To thrive as one ages means to actively grow as a person and develop new pathways and pursuits. To thrive is to reach forth and discover , and achieve or create something above and beyond what came before”. (133). Agronin stresses the need to see in our aging an opportunity for personal growth. “When we denigrate aging and only see it primarily as a time of decline and weakness, we rob ourselves of one of the most influential and powerful forces in our life”. (147)
Yes, Agronin does look at issues that surface which test our ability to grow and thrive. He looks at what he calls “age points” that are moments that force a recalculation of how we see life. He looks as well at the response of resilience in aging, a topic which is getting much more respect as our generation confronts our own “age points”. He also looks at a point in life when we seem to transition into “old age”, when the creative “juices” may wane and we lose a sense of life’s purpose. He coins the term “geropause” which is not the end of aging, but “the end of aging that is dynamic, meaning that it is a force for change, and the end of aging that is creative, meaning that it is generating new things.” (117)
In the end, Agronin, like our tradition, tells us that it is up to each of us as to how we approach this life stage. “The bottom line””, he writes, “is that you have to determine your own meaningful path, built upon your own unique age-given strengths of wisdom, purpose and creativity…The ultimate goal is not only to live longer, but to live a better, mor purposeful life.” (159)
As our generation marches ahead, expect to see books like Agronin’s and the recent Barbara Ehrenreich book (“Natural Causes”) that begin to offer realistic views of our own aging. One of the themes that seems to be emerging is that no matter what we do, if we are lucky, we will be given the gift of longevity and it is up to us as to how we navigate that journey, knowing that we cannot control it, or its end. It seems that resting in these books may be the message that we need not be afraid to go out and live life to its fullest, making choices that bring to us and our world blessings.
Rabbi Richard F Address
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.