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Older Is Wiser

I got to know Sage-ing International through a workshop at Ghost Ranch in 2014. What a concept they promote: to approach growing older with authentic wholeness and goals of service to others as well as personal fulfillment. It’s very gratifying that Finish Strong is featured in Sage-ing International’s May newsletter, as I do, in fact, talk about its founder in Chapter 11 of the book: 

In 1995, Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi published From Ageing to Sage-ing: A Revolutionary Approach to Growing Older, a book designed to help people prepare for advancing age, extreme old age and death with more anticipation than dread, more gratitude than grief. I think of this work as sacred work, work we were born to do, work that, when neglected, will keep us from achieving the joy in life and sense of completion at death that are our birthright.

Zalman already had a lifetime of innovation behind him, being one of the founders of the Jewish Renewal movement and an innovator in ecumenical dialogue. His book laid the foundation for a movement variously called “sageing,” “conscious aging” or “conscious eldering.” He remained its revered leader until his death in 2014 at the age of 89. Rabbi Zalman starts with the premise that mortality is our teacher in being more generous, loving and joyful as we age. “Death,” he writes, “is not a cosmic mistake. Woven into the warp and woof of existence, the presence of death deepens our appreciation of life. It also regenerates our psyches in preparation for harvesting.” The conscious aging movement could be called a life-affirming movement in death preparation, for that, at its core, is what it is.

Ideally, we would all follow Zalman’s advice and undertake the tasks of life completion long before our own ending comes into view. Certainly, it’s never too late to start, and we will find the enterprise surprisingly enlivening. Even if we delay, much of what he teaches can help make our last weeks or months of life a time of vastly expanded consciousness. Many terminally ill people do report finding a measure of joy, serenity and gratitude that remains remarkably elusive until we come to number our days in a concrete way.

  • Read more in Chapter 11: “Space for the Sacred” of Finish Strong.
  • See what Sage-ing has to say about Finish Strong in their May 2019 newsletter.

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