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‘Spirited Aging’ program celebrates ‘next great adventure’ in our lives


By Stacey Dresner

WORCESTER – Jewish Family & Children’s Service (JF&CS) and the Worcester Jewish Community Center will present a community-wide event focusing on “Spirited Aging,” on Sunday, May 1 from 10 a.m. – noon at the Worcester JCC.

The organizers say the event will help participants to “explore together how we understand and find meaning and purpose in the experience of growing older.”

Presenters will include Marjorie U. Sokoll, director of JF&CS Spirituality and Aging, and Sue Spielman and Barbara Sternfield, both program specialists in JF&CS’s Jewish Healing Connections. The presenters all received training through the Institute for Jewish Spirituality’s Wise Aging program.

The program is being made possible through a bequest of William A. and Judith S. Yoffie.

This community-wide event is for anyone – of any age — who is interested in the topic of aging.

“It’s for people who might be thinking about their parents, or who are thinking about themselves and their own aging. Plenty of people in their 50s are wondering what they are doing with this next great adventure in their life,” said Deb Shrier, director of JF&CS.

So, what exactly is “Spirited Aging?”

“Really, it’s about acknowledging that we are living longer than ever,” said Marjorie Sokoll, who will be leading the May 1 event.

“There is a longevity movement and it’s not just with the baby boomers, it is going to continue with the millenials and Generation X. And so if we are living longer as human beings, what we have now is a whole other developmental stage of life that we have never had before in human history…We’re really the first generation in history that has had this extra amount of time. A century ago the average lifespan was 47.”

So if we all have so much extra time, what are we to do with it?

Sokoll said it depends on the person.

“For everybody it’s different. There is no blueprint or roadmap,” Sokoll said. When it comes to aging, she said, “the message is either that aging is all about decline or decrepitude or that you could be climbing Mount Kilimanjaro until you are 100, which is unrealistic.”

“The reality is both, the reality is a balance,” she continued. “Of course there are physical changes that occur, but there are opportunities to expand our spiritual life. What is our spiritual life? That is what we will be focusing on May 1– a connection to something greater than ourselves. For some people that could be God, but for many people that can be nature, or music or family and relationships. That is where we are giving people the opportunity to explore that, to read texts from great writers and thinkers and to be in conversation with other people on this topic.”

Another facet of the program will be a workshop on June 1, from 5:30- 9 p.m. at the Worcester JCC, for professionals who want to lead discussion groups in the topic of Spirited Aging. “The workshop is a natural progression from the bigger community event,” Shrier said.

To that end, promotional partners of the “Spirited Aging” program are, Central Mass Chabad, Congregation Beth Israel, Hadassah Greater Boroughs, Jewish Federation of Central Mass., Jewish Healthcare Center, and Temple Emanuel-Sinai. Representatives of these organizations, as well as others in the area, are expected to participate in the workshop where they will receive information and learn about resources for forming and leading these discussion groups.

“We’re very excited to partner with the Worcester JCC on this project,” Shrier said. “JF & CS has had great success in other areas of Massachusetts, presenting this program, such as in greater Boston, so to be able to reach out to more people, especially in the Central Mass community is a real benefit for us and for them.”

“Spirited Aging” will be held Sunday, May 1 from 10 a.m – noon at the Worcester JCC, 633 Salisbury St. The event is open to the public, but space is limited and registration is required. The “Spirited Aging” Workshop for community professionals will be held Wednesday, June 1, from 5:30 – 9 p.m. at the Worcester JCC. The cost is $36 per person and includes dinner and materials. Space is limited. Registration is required. For more information, call (508) 713-7869.

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