By Rabbi Laura Geller and Richard Siegel (2019 – Behrman House)
Book Review by Joe Casey
The retirement transition is one of the most significant experiences in a lifetime. Some view it as an ending, but it’s increasingly also seen as a new beginning. The authors suggest a more apt term for retirement today – rewirement. It can be a launching pad for positive aging, lifelong learning, personal growth and wisdom. This book will definitely help you retire smarter.
“One thing we learn as we grow older is that wisdom is not a static destination but an ongoing accumulation of knowledge, insight, and experience. Lucky for us, opportunities for lifelong learning abound…As we learn more about ourselves and those around us, we may be inspired to create new ways to acknowledge and celebrate those special moments and accomplishments as poignant markers of and motivation for our continued growth.”
– Rabbi Laura Geller and Richard Siegel, Getting Good at Getting Older
There’s a personal story that led me to this excellent book on retirement and later life. In the Spring of 2018, I began my final class in the Masters in Gerontology program at USC. The class I was scheduled to take was suddenly canceled. An advisor recommended an alternative offering titled Mindful Aging: Spirituality, Gratitude, and Resilience. I signed up with great interest and curiosity, but I did not really know what to expect. I was in for many surprises. It was the most meaningful course I’ve ever taken.
On the first day, our professor Dr. Leah Buturain warned, “If this is your last class in the program and you expect it to be an easy glide to the finish line, you’re in the wrong class. This will likely be your most demanding class.” (She was not kidding).
The Spiritual Dimension
A key part of the class was exploring the spiritual side of aging. One way that Dr. Buturain taught this was through inviting in a series of guest lecturers from a wide range of spiritual traditions to join us in class. This was an enlightening experience for me as a lifelong Catholic. It broadened my horizons and thinking. I was intrigued by how many things were universal across the various religions and what aspects were unique.
A highlight for me was the day that Rabbi Laura Geller came to class. She was the third woman ordained as a Rabbi and was named by Next Avenue as one of the Top Influencers in Aging. She engaged us with a substantive lecture and a rich discussion on aging well and the transition to retirement. She mentioned that she was working on a book with her husband. I pre-ordered it during class, and I was delighted when it arrived on my doorstep last week.
Successful Aging and Mindful Aging
This book offers a comprehensive view of later adulthood. It’s a valuable guide to successful aging and mindful aging. It doesn’t shy away from any part of the life course. For example, it includes useful information on proactive preparations for the end of life. The book covers the waterfront beginning with a thoughtful piece on the topic of wisdom. The authors note that wisdom is acquired not through aging alone. It’s cultivated through an ongoing process of experience, learning, reflection and self-discovery – aided by humility. From there, the authors share their insights and recommendations on lifelong learning, relationships and community, healthy aging and the importance of purpose.
The book includes chapters written by a variety of contributors, including:
- Marc Freedman and Marci Alboher of Encore.org – Making Purpose Your True North
- Helen Dennis – Acquiring for Yourself a Friend
- Richard Eisenberg – Touching the Future through Mentoring
- Sylvia Boorstein – Mindfulness
- Deborah Goldstein – Leaving a Legacy, Not a Landfill
The book includes a number of interesting exercises and pragmatic strategies to try out. At the end of each section of the book, there’s a helpful list of tools and resources.
As you might expect a book co-authored by a prominent Rabbi and the co-editor of The Jewish Catalog to be, it is written through the lens of their religion. If you have different beliefs, I hope you’ll be open to the profound and practical wisdom you’ll find throughout this book. You will be wiser for it.
After pre-ordering the book, I would periodically check to see when it would be published as it seemed to be delayed. Upon receiving it, I learned the sad news that Rabbi Geller’s husband and co-author Richard Siegel had passed away. Condolences on your loss and thank you for sharing your wisdom.
Getting Good at Getting Older on Amazon
How Can You Be Better with Age?