By Susan Freiband
What does it mean to age well? What qualities are important? An informative new book, Wise Aging, Living with Joy, Resilience, & Spirit by Rabbi Rachel Cowan and Dr. Linda Thal (Behrman House/Institute for Jewish Spirituality, 2015) identifies traits associated with those who have aged well. These include feeling and expressing gratitude, cultivating generosity, practicing patience, experiencing joy, and displaying equanimity.
Gratitude facilitates open mindedness, optimism and joy. It involves seeing, acknowledging, and appreciating the good in the world and in people. It is manifested in words of thanks, blessings, songs of praise, as well as in acts of tikkun olam.
Patience allows recognition and acceptance of things that cannot be controlled. It allows consideration of alternatives to what cannot be changed. In this way it enhances the capacity to be more loving, forgiving, less afraid, and better partner and friend.
Joy lifts the spirit, and helps us find pleasure in life. It supports hope and optimism, staying strong and feeling connected.
Equanimity, a place of inner calm and balance, allows acceptance of being present with what is happening, whether it is what is wanted or not. This is what helps us live well, being responsive, rather than reactive when facing difficult situations or challenges. .
As we get older, each of these qualities becomes even more important. They are clearly interrelated, and sustain each other. They all promote aging well.