Eldering… Becoming The Sage
By Jo Strausz Rosen
Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomie taught, “When we refer to someone as a “senior” this noun points to a static, lifeless condition. It’s as if a state called “senior” has been attained and all further organic growth had ceased. Regarding the word “eldering,” the “ing” of the word refers to a state of growth and evolution, a process with endless possibilities. Eldering implies that we take active responsibility for our destiny in old age, living by conscious choice rather than social expectation. We actively choose to participate in mind, body, and spiritual activities.”
The lesson to be learned is that the process of aging is not something that happens to us. It is something that we do. And what we choose to do with our time and energy matters greatly.
Take, for example, practicing meditation and quiet contemplation. Dr. Deepak Chopra has advocated a holistic approach to medicine in his book, Quantum Healing. He reported on an experiment conducted in 1980 by Harvard psychologist, Charles Alexander, who taught mind-body techniques to 80-year-old residents living in older adult communities in Boston. Residents practiced either a relaxation technique, transcendental meditation, or a set of word games to sharpen mental skills. Follow-up tests showed that meditators scored highest on measures of improved learning ability, low blood pressure, and mental health. When Alexander returned to the communities three years later, he found to his surprise that while one third of the residents had died, the death rate was zero among the meditators.
Chopra speculates that we may be able to rejuvenate cellular activity and slow the aging process through contemplative practices. He says, “Aging involves a large element of choice. If meditation can improve the lives of 80-year-olds, imagine the benefits for elders who began practicing it earlier in life. As more and more of us continue to take on these practices, millions of people have the knowledge, techniques, and cultural support to make spiritual eldering a significant force for social change.”
Reb Zalman says, “The key to spiritual eldering lies in awakening our immense brain-mind potential. As we continue to live longer, evolution is giving us the opportunity to ripen new areas of the brain, allowing for intuitive thinking to cultivate and explore new avenues of thought, receive creative inspiration, solve personal problems, and improve decision-making abilities.”
Meditation and other beneficial activities help us to make the most of our “eldering.” And in the process of enriching our own lives in our later years, we can plant the seeds for others by passing our new-found wisdom and skills to succeeding generations. It’s a joy to witness the benefits that younger participants get from teaching programs featuring our eldering elders, like mentorships, lectures, and recorded storytelling. Aging Sages live well in our West Bloomfield and Oak Park JSL communities. New Sages are moving in all the time and thriving in the communities our residents call home.
LIVE, With Us.