Rabbi Laura Geller

Getting Good at Getting Older
    was named  a National Jewish Book Award Finalist
         in the category of Contemporary Jewish Life and Practice. 

Resources


Part 1: Getting Good at Gaining Wisdom


Chapter 1: Changing Your Life for (the) Good

MUSSAR

Morinis, Alan. Everyday Holiness. Boston: Trumpeter Books, 2007. An introduction to the history, theory, and practice of mussar by one of the preeminent contemporary teachers of the tradition and the founder of the Mussar Institute. Mussar Institute

The Center for Contemporary Mussar. Nonprofit led by founder Rabbi Ira Stone (author of A Responsible Life) and Dr. Beulah Trey that offers distance learning, local small-group study, and training opportunities.

The Making of a Mensch (available through www.letitripple.org or www.rebootshop.org. Filmmaker (and Getting Good at Getting Older contributor) Tiffany Shlain’s 10-minute film interprets mussar through a 21st-century lens.

SPIRITUAL DIRECTION
The Yedidya Center for Jewish Spiritual Direction. Dedicated to promoting the emerging practice of spiritual direction in the North American Jewish community. 

Spiritual Directors International. A learning community of practitioners from all over the world. Includes a directory. 

JOURNALING 
Feld, Merle. A Spiritual Life: Exploring the Heart and Jewish Tradition. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2007. Journaling as a spiritual practice (see also www.merlefeld.com)

TECH SHABBAT
National Day of Unplugging. A project of Reboot. Give it a try. 

Chapter 2: Cooking Up New Rituals

Jewish Sacred Aging. A wide-ranging website with resources that explore the implications of the revolution in longevity for all generations, drawing on the wisdom of Judaism. 

Mayyim Hayyim. This Boston-based organization provides a refreshingly contemporary perspective on the mikvah experience and offers ritual resources. 

Ritualwell. Provides models of Jewish rituals to commemorate special life moments, including Milestone Birthdays, Grandparenting, Becoming an Elder, Menopause, and Retirement. 

Chapter 3: Putting the Life in Lifelong Learning

TEXTS 
Sefaria: A Living Library of Jewish Texts is a free online library of Jewish texts in English and Hebrew. 

LEARNING ONLINE
The Daf Yomi Advancement Forum. This online resource center supplies free, multilevel English language resources for those studying Talmud according to the 7 ½-year daf yomi cycle. 

MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses). There are MOOCs on many online platforms, but the following offer the largest number of courses, from the largest number of institutions, in the broadest range of subjects:
 

● Coursera. Founded by two Stanford professors, Coursera classes are taught by instructors in institutions all over the world, including museums. 
● edX. Launched by MIT and Harvard University, edX offers free university-level courses from institutions around the world.
● Udemy. Offers more than 45,000 courses. Anyone can create one, so use Udemy’s rating system to see what others’ experiences have been. Many courses are free, but not all. 


My Jewish Learning is a great platform for nondenominational self-paced Jewish study online. 

Project Zug . Takes classic Jewish chevruta (one-on-one) learning online and matches people from North American to Israel in weekly sessions, facilitated by teachers. Also can be used by institutions or organized groups who want to offer chevruta learning within their membership. 

Derekh: Pathways to the Heart and Jewish Tradition. Created by Rabbi Eddie and Merle Feld to offer support and guidance for seekers at every stage of their journey—from established spiritual leaders to those training to do sacred work. 

TRAVEL LEARNING
Odysseys Unlimited. Small-group guided tours for older adults with a balanced mix of traveling, sightseeing, cultural encounters, and free time. 

Overseas Adventure Travel. Small group adventures for lifelong learners, typically over 50, who are interested in going off the beaten path and getting immersed in the local culture. 

We love study tours offered by universities and museums, and by Road Scholar, the preeminent leader in educational travel. 

RETREAT CENTERS
Chautauqua, in southwestern New York State, is open in the summer to explore social and political issues and to promote excellence and creativity of the arts. The Everett Jewish Life Center, one of Chautauqua’s denominational houses, examines cutting edge issues from a Jewish perspective with important Jewish teachers and thought leaders.  

Esalen, in Big Sur, the epicenter for leaders and methodologies of the emerging New Age movement in the ’60s now offers more than 500 workshops a year in personal growth. Its East Coast counterpart is Omega Institute for Holistic Studies, in Rhinebeck, New York. 

Institute for Jewish Spirituality. A unique cross-denominational resource center for developing and deepening your contemplative practice of Judaism, IJS offers retreats and training programs. 

Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, and the Feathered Pipe Ranch, in Helena, Montana, offer classes and retreats built on yoga and the Hindu tradition. 

Spirit Rock: An Insight Meditation Center, near San Rafael, California, and the Insight Meditation Society, in Barre, Massachusetts, offer contemporary American Buddhist retreats. 

General 
The AARP website is an all-around great information resource.
 


 

Part 2: Getting Good at Getting Along


General All-Around Great Information Resource

Next Avenue. Public media’s national journalism service for America’s baby boomers and beyond offers news, ideas, and perspectives on all sorts of issues. Well worth a visit. 

Chapter 6: Honoring Your Father and Mother 

Check out AARP caregiving resources as well as your local Jewish Family Service for lower-cost strategies. Another helpful resource is from Discover.

There are many online resources that can help in the challenge of caring for increasingly frail parents. Among them is www.AgingCare.com, which gives families navigational tools. Its caregiver’s resource library offers downloadable guides. 

Chapter 7: Caring for (and Feeding) Adult Children

Grown & Flown. A great site by and for parents of children in high school through the early stages of adulthood. 

Chapter 8: Teaching Your (Children’s) Children Well

Grandparents for Social Action. Founded by Jewish educator Sharon Morton, with this mission: “Educating and engaging seniors to do social action; empowering the youth to be lifelong philanthropists and social activists; and creating a legacy from one generation to another.” 

The Jewish Grandparents Network sees grandparents as essential family members who can make unique contributions to future generations. Its mission is to support different kinds of families, including multifaith, LGBTQ, single-parent and grandparents, and to help mitigate the challenges of geographical distance. 

Chapter 9: Rekindling the Flame

Couples workshops, such as those offered by Judith Ansara and Robert Gass (www.sacredunion.com) in venues around North and Central America, can be amazing experiences. 

Among the books worth taking a look at are Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt’s Getting the Love You Want: A Guide for Couples (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2007). Also check out the videos available on the website of these two therapists-speakers-authors.

Chapter 11: Finding and Creating A Community

There are many resources on cohousing, house sharing, and retirement communities on aarp.org/livable, and Housing Options for Older Adults: A Guide for Making Housing Decisions, produced by the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging

ChaiVillageLA is the first synagogue-based village in the United States. 

National Shared Housing Resource Center is a clearinghouse of information about all things related to home sharing, in which a homeowner offers living space to a home sharer in exchange for an agreed level of support, monetary or otherwise. 

Project Renewment® is a mini-movement for career women who are exploring their next chapter in life after their primary career. Groups of 8–10 women typically meet monthly in someone’s home. 

ROMEOs: Retired Old Men Eating Out. These are clubs of men having a good time who are retired or semi-retired. No membership required. 

Silvernest is an online service designed for boomers and empty nesters who want to home-share. Silvernest’s service pairs homeowners who have extra space in their homes with long-term housemates.

Stitch is a community that helps anyone over 50 find companionship. Stitch focuses on those who want friendship, companionship, romance, or anything in between.

The Village to Village Network is a national grassroots nonprofit membership organization that offers resources to help villages get established and flourish. Over 200 villages have been established in the United States.
 



Part 3: Getting Good at Getting Better


Chapter 12: Staying Fit Is a Mitzvah 

To establish a walking regimen: Visit KCET City Walk, a series of 30-minute episodes exploring pedestrian life in Los Angeles, Portland, Boston, Atlanta, Washington, DC, and New York that explores how walking is “reconnecting us to our bodies, our civic values, and public space.” 

An interesting video to watch is “The Transformative Power of Walking” by Vancouver, BC city planner Sandra James at TEDxCarsonCity.

For counting calories and logging exercise: Lose It! Free.

Map My Walk. Uses the GPS in your phone to map out walking routes, record details of your workout, and calculate the number of calories you’ve burned. (If you’re a runner or a cyclist, try Map My Run or Map My Ride.)

My Fitness Pal. A free one-stop shop for setting your weight-loss goals, recording what you eat, and tracking your activities. With a food database of more than 5 million items and a bar code scanner, you can make the best choices at home, in the supermarket, and in restaurants.

The Feldenkrais Method applies gentle, mindful movement in basic positions, such as sitting or lying on the floor, standing, or sitting in a chair to help a person develop new alternatives to habitual patterns of movement.

Pilates workouts build strength in your core muscles for better posture, balance, and flexibility.

You can find the RBG Workout here.

Chapter 13: Taking Care of Your (Emotional) Self

Apps for Meditation
Learn to meditate in 10 days with Headspace. Time your meditation sessions with Insight Timer.

Website
Stanford Forgiveness Projects. An ongoing series of workshops and research projects that apply forgiveness therapy with people in war-torn areas as well as in corporate, medical, legal, and religious settings. 

Chapter 16: Mourning and Moving On 

Shiva.com. A site entirely devoted to learning and practical resources having to do with Jewish mourning—practices, customs, even helps with ordering sympathy gifts.
 
 

Part 4: Getting Good at Getting Organized


Chapter 18: Getting Your Stuff Together

Personal affairs organizer, by Leah Bishop. Download it here

Chapter 19: Planning for What You Don’t Want to Plan For

There are numerous sources for advance health-care directives, from religious organizations and also from health-care institutions. The following are a few suggestions:

• Conservative Movement. The medical directive was approved by the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Rabbinical Assembly, which guides the Conservative movement in Jewish legal matters. Find it here
• An Orthodox Perspective. The Rabbinical Council of America, the main US rabbinical association within Modern Orthodoxy, has a directive “to help ensure that all medical and post-death decisions made by others on your behalf will be made in accordance with Jewish law and custom.” Find it here
• Reform Movement. Rabbi Richard Address, on his Jewish Sacred Aging website, offers A Time to Prepare, free forms designed “to help guide you and your family through a series of conversations about end-of-life plans and care plans,” including a medical directive with six illness scenarios. 
• Reconstructionist Judaism. Although there is no official advanced health-care directive for Reconstructionist Jews, Rabbi David Teutsch, a professor of Jewish ethics and former president of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, recommends the Five Wishes Advance Directive (see below).


General Resources

• Compassion & Choices is a nonprofit support, education, and advocacy organization whose mission is to improve care and expand options for the end of life. 
• Considerations for Members of the LGBT Community. The Human Rights Campaign provides information to help members of the LGBT community receive fair and equal treatment. Search for advance health-care directives here
• The Five Wishes. Developed by Aging with Dignity, a nonprofit organization advocating for quality care for those near the end of life, the Five Wishes is “America’s most popular living will.” 
• National Institute on Aging. The website of the National Institute on Aging is replete with helpful information, including its Advance Care Planning: Healthcare Directives. 
• What Health-Care Directives Are Called in Your State. In addition to offering legal resources for purchase, NOLO also has a lot of free information including a helpful listing by state. Look through “Legal Topics” on their website their website.


Chapter 20: Having the Last Word in Funeral Planning

Build-it-Yourself Caskets / Uncommon Urns
Instructions or kits for build-it-yourself caskets are readily available online, and there are even YouTube videos to help guide you through the process:

• Casketplans.com
• Mother Earth News
• Natural Burial Company
• Northwoods Casket


If you are thinking about cremation, www.treehugger.com offers the Poetree, a designer urn “that infuses a poetic spirit into the mourning process” and lets you plant a tree from ashes. 

General Resources

The Funeral Rule, enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), makes it possible for you to choose only those goods and services you want or need, and to pay only for those you select, whether you are making arrangements when a death occurs or in advance. 

A good general source for information on the Jewish rituals of funeral, burial, and mourning is the nonprofit organization Kavod v’Nichum(Honor and Comfort). 

Chapter 21: Talking about Life and Death 

Two good places to start talking about the realities and concerns of getting older with your family, friends, colleagues, and health-care professionals are:
The Conversation Project. Offers several easy-to-use starter kits, including one for “Families and Loved Ones of People with Alzheimer’s Disease or Other Forms of Dementia” and “How to Talk to Your Doctor.” 

Death over Dinner. A simple format, with a step-by-step online guide and a wealth of articles, podcasts, and videos to facilitate discussion. There is also a Jewish edition

 


 

Part 5: Getting Good at Giving Back


Chapter 22: Giving a Damn and Getting Involved

A number of organizations—local, national, and international—offer opportunities for nonpartisan citizen activism. Websites such as Avaaz.org or Change.org make it easy to champion causes that are important to you. 

Chapter 23: Making Purpose Your True North

An inspiring website to visit is www.encore.org. Just as inspiring is this book by its president Marc Freedman: How to Live Forever: The Enduring Power of Connecting the Generations. New York: Public Affairs, 2018.

Chapter 24: Volunteering with its Joys (and Occasional Oys)

US-based Volunteering
Visit these websites for assistance in finding local and US-based volunteer opportunities:
 
● All for Good 
● Hands On Network  
● Idealist 
● ReServe 
● Taproot 
● VolunteerMatch 

Nechama: Jewish Response to Disaster (nechama is Hebrew for “comfort”), based in the Midwest, provides cleanup and recovery assistance to homes and communities throughout the United States affected by natural disaster. 

Senior Corps, a program of the Corporation for National and Community Service, is composed of Americans age 55 and older who use their experience and wisdom to volunteer and make a difference in their communities. Current programs include Foster Grandparents; RSVP, the largest volunteer network in the country; and Senior Companions, which helps seniors remain independent in their homes. Also check out your State Service Commission, which oversees federal programs operating in your state, such as AmeriCorps, VISTA, and Senior Corps. The Corporation for National and Community Service oversees these programs. 

Programs Focused on Israel

Some of our favorites:
CAARI, Canadian American Active Retirees in Israel, combines volunteering in Tel Aviv schools and hands-on cleanup in Jewish National Fund sites with visits to Israel’s landmarks. Takes place in January–February. 

Dental Volunteers for Israel places licensed dentists as volunteers in a clinic serving Jerusalem’s indigent children, regardless of race or religion. Operates year-round. 

GoEco offers a variety of affordable volunteer and ecologically minded vacations. Some programs are age-limited. Provides hostel-style accommodations. Operates year-round. 

Jewish Agency’s Partnership2gether Peoplehood Platform is a joint initiative of various Jewish Community Federations and the Jewish Agency of Israel. 

Sar-El provides volunteer work on an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) base, performing noncombat civilian support duties, such as packing medical supplies, repairing machinery and equipment, building fortifications, and cleaning, painting, and maintaining the base. Volunteers work alongside soldiers, base employees, and other volunteers, and stay in barracks Sunday through Wednesday. Operates year-round. 

Skilled Volunteers for Israel provides meaningful volunteer opportunities by linking the interests and expertise of North American adults, including retirees, with the critical needs of Israeli nonprofit and educational organizations. Its visionary director Marla Gamoran has begun to change the culture of volunteering in Israel by focusing on older adults and offering a large variety of placement options, based on the skills, interests, experience, and geographical preference of the adult volunteers. Operates year-round. 

WWOOF Israel, or World-Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, offers volunteer opportunities on a kibbutz, a moshav, or a small private family farm. Provides free food and accommodation. Volunteers learn from their hosts about organic gardening, winemaking, permaculture, green building, cheese making, gray water system, renewable energy, animal care, and more. 

Other Overseas Volunteering 

A Broader View Volunteers has 245 programs across the world, including some geared for mature travelers. The organization “openly welcomes doctors, nurses, dentists, and teachers at overcrowded and understaffed clinics, schools, orphanages, and hospitals.” 

Abroadly, part of Volunteer Forever, is a clearinghouse of more than 150 programs committed to ethical and sustainable social impact in youth development, construction and community development, education, health and medicine, human rights, and wildlife and environmental conservation.

Globally focused, the American Jewish World Service Volunteer Corps provides substantive volunteer assignments in developing countries, ranging from two months to a year. Prior to service, volunteers participate in an orientation that includes Jewish text study relating to international development. When they return home, they are expected to advocate for community building and social change.

Global Vision International works in 13 countries, and all its programs are aligned with the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, as well as the objectives of local partners. It has a division for volunteers 50 and over. 

Global Volunteers specializes in ethical volunteer projects abroad, in special consultative status with the United Nations. 

International Volunteer HQ is a travel company that operates in 40 locations. Their placements include projects caring for abused elephants in the Elephant Village of Surin, Thailand, educational support in the schools of Kathmandu, and Great Barrier Turtle Conservation in Cairns, Australia. 

Jewish Helping Hands, founded by Rabbi Joel Soffin, reaches out to needy and vulnerable populations in the United States and abroad. 

Projects Abroad offers two-week-long programs of global service. This organization has a division for skilled professionals, including those who are retired and have experience in teaching, care, conservation and environment, medicine and health care, journalism, law, and business. 

Chapter 26: Touching the Future through Mentoring 

Three excellent programs you might want to investigate to become a tutoring mentor: 
 
● Experience Corps, a program of AARP, places volunteers age 50 and older in schools as reading tutors for children in grades K–3.
● The Foster Grandparent Program of Senior Corps matches mentors with special-needs families to help with schoolwork, parenting, and care. 
● Gen2Gen, part of encore.org, is dedicated to bringing the generations together and helping youth-serving organizations tap experienced talent. 

Jewish Big Brothers and Sisters helps young people achieve their full potential through mentoring relationships and programs, offers college scholarships. The Los Angeles chapter and owns and operates a 112-acre residential camp and retreat center near Glendale, California.

Oasis is a national nonprofit educational group for people age 50 and older that helps match prospective mentors with children in grades K–3 who could be helped through one-on-one tutoring.
 


Part 6: Getting Good at Giving Away


Chapter 27: Giving Strategically to Make Real Change

Jewish Funders Network. A national organization of Jewish funders, both large and small, that provides free educational materials about different forms of philanthropy, such as private foundations, donor-advised funds, giving circles, giving in Israel, and impact investing. 

Siegel, Danny. Giving Your Money Away: How Much, How To, Why, Where, and To Whom. Danny Siegel (no relation to Richard) is a force of nature known for his unrelenting writing, teaching, and general talking about Jewish values and giving at synagogues, JCCs, Federations, day schools, and college campuses across the country. This is his one-volume guide to personalized tzedakah.

21/64. An independent nonprofit providing advice, assistance, and training for multigenerational engagement in family philanthropy. It offers tools to help facilitate the conversation about values within families or among giving circle members.

Chapter 28: Mixing Community and Philanthropy

Amplifier. In 2014 Natan launched Amplifier: The Jewish Giving Circle Movement to help people create and sustain new giving circles. Amplifiergiving.org offers free resources with detailed practical information, and also lists existing giving circles in case you want to join one, rather than start your own.

Chapter 30: Telling Your Story 

The Last Act. This project of Reboot.org is a series of short documentaries that celebrates how we can “live better while living longer.” Contribute your own short video interviews of someone “who is living their years to the fullest,” using the DIY #TheLastAct toolkit.  

StoryCorps. For examples of moving life stories, beautifully told, there is no better repository than StoryCorps, a nonprofit whose mission is to provide people of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve the stories of their lives. You too can record a StoryCorps interview: Just invite anyone you choose to one of the StoryCorps recording sites to share a 40-minute conversation. Or if you can’t get to a recording site, you can use the StoryCorps App to record anywhere.

Storytelling Tips. National Public Radio provides a variety of storytelling tips and best practices through its NPR Training site. Although primarily for people interested in producing radio format programs or podcasts, many of the resources are applicable to personal oral history projects.

Chapter 31: Remembering Me Like This

Zaiman, Elana. The Forever Letter: Writing What We Believe for Those We Love. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Publications, 2017. A gorgeously written and thoughtful guide to creating a “forever letter,” by rabbi and chaplain Zaiman, who speaks and teaches on this subject throughout the United States and Canada. Includes writing prompts, goals to strive for, pitfalls to avoid, and examples from private and public figures. See also www.elanazaiman.com

Baines, Barry K. Ethical Wills: Putting Your Values on Paper. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press, 2006. Written by a doctor and hospice director, this book offers practical advice on both expressing and passing on your deepest held beliefs. See also www.celebrationsoflife.net

Turnbull, Susan. The Wealth of Your Life: A Step-by-Step Guide for Creating Your Ethical Will. Wenham, MA: Benedict Press, 2005. A practical guide to creating a written document or recording, from finding a focus to telling your stories. See also www.personallegacyadvisors.com.