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Aging Well Takes Skill
Wise retirement planning transcends your 401k. The transition to retirement is one of the most significant experiences you’ll encounter in your lifetime. And it’s increasingly being recognized as a new and distinct phase of life. One that’s rich with possibilities for personal development, spiritual growth, learning, and wisdom. While people retire at different ages, what we all have in common is that we are all growing older. And it turns out that aging well takes a new skillset.
In this episode of our retirement podcast, our guest is Rabbi Laura Geller, Rabbi Emerita of Temple Emanuel in Beverly Hills, California, a founder of ChaiVillageLA and co-author of the new book, Getting Good at Getting Older. She was the third woman in the Reform Movement to become a rabbi and among the first to be selected to lead a major metropolitan synagogue.
We talk with Rabbi Geller about:
- Why she and her late husband decided to write the new book Getting Good at Getting Older
- If wisdom comes with age
- How we can cultivate wisdom (and as she recommends – a heart of wisdom) in the second half of life
- Why creating the right mindset and attitude about retirement is so important
- Spirituality and inner life in the second half of life
- The benefits of embracing lifelong learning and aging well
- What people who thrive in retirement do differently from those who struggle with the transition to retirement
- Where to begin if you want to get good at getting older
Rabbi Laura Geller, Emerita Rabbi of Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills, was the first woman to be selected through a national search to lead a major metropolitan synagogue as Senior Rabbi. She was twice named one of Newsweek’s 50 Most Influential Rabbis in America and was featured in the PBS documentary “Jewish Americans.” Author of numerous articles in books and journals, she was on the editorial board of The Torah: A Women’s Commentary. She is a Fellow of the Corporation of Brown University from where she graduated in 1971. Ordained by Hebrew Union College in 1976, she is the third woman in the Reform Movement to become a rabbi. She is a Rabbinic Fellow of the Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, a mentor in the Clergy Leadership Initiative, a facilitator in the Formation Project of On Being, and a member of the Board of The Jewish Women’s Archive. She is a founder of the first synagogue-based village, ChaiVillageLA, which is part of the national Village Movement. She is co-author with her late husband Richard Siegel, co-author of The Jewish Catalog(1973), of Getting Good at Getting Older.
“It’s very important to acknowledge that it’s hard to have a lot of wisdom when you’re young. But as you say, getting older doesn’t mean that you’re necessarily wise. So, the activity of acquiring wisdom is a practice many of us prepare when we’re younger for our retirement. We need also to prepare for our spiritual work of this second stage of our life. And part of it, I think is really paying attention to what it means to be wise. What does it mean to pay attention to the opportunities that exist that this stage of our life and what are the practices that can help us do that? So, in our book, we speak about meditation, we talk about journaling, we talk about pilgrimage as opposed to travel. It’s one thing to take a trip. It’s another thing to experience that trip as a pilgrimage, a journey that will help us discover not only our roots but also what’s really important to us. It takes a focus on lifelong learning. We continue to learn and gain wisdom through the notion that when you stop learning, you start dying.”
On Intergenerational Relationships
“One of the things that we learned in working on our book is one of the secrets of getting good at getting older is cultivating friends across generation, younger friends, and actually older friends as well.”
On Meaning & Purpose in the Second Half of Life
“I think the bottom line is that when we are in midlife, we’re often sort of too busy to pay attention to the existential questions of meaning and purpose. You know, you have kids, you have older parents, you have work. You don’t really have time necessarily to really reflect on the meaning and purpose of life. But now at this stage, with the acknowledgment that there’s less time ahead than there was behind, I think people are in a position often to pay more attention to those kinds of questions. And those kinds of questions ultimately are spiritual questions. Not everybody defines spirituality in the same way. Not everybody speaks of divinity in their lives, but I think many people at this stage of their life have the spaciousness to be able to think about questions that they perhaps didn’t have the opportunity to think about before.”
Rabbi Geller’s Book:
Buy Getting Good at Getting Older on Amazon
Organizations Mentioned in this Podcast
Our Brief Review of Getting Good at Getting Older as one of the best books on retirement and healthy aging. It’s a comprehensive guide on how to age well and retire smarter.
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