Marjie Sokoll, the director of the Betty Ann Greenbaum Miller Center for Jewish Healing at JF&CS, recently visited Chicago to offer three interactive presentations on the Spirited Aging program. Launched by Marjie in 2014, the Spirited Aging program supports people of all ages and backgrounds in their search to find meaning, joy and spirituality in their lives as they grow older. While in Chicago, Marjie spoke at The Selfhelp Home, Temple Emanuel and Jewish Child and Family Services.
Marjie was invited to Chicago by Debbie Lipsett, a member of the Betty Ann Greenbaum Miller Center for Jewish Healing Advisory Council. Chicago is Debbie’s hometown, and she has developed meaningful connections with the organizations that Marjie spoke to during her trip. “Everyone loved Marjie’s warm, engaging and empathetic style,” said Debbie. “They would love to see her come back for another visit!”
Debbie and Marjie have known each other for several years, and last November they were the inspiring guest artists at the JF&CS Memory Café, where they presented on Spirited Aging Through Movement and Music.
Along with her colleagues, Barbara Sternfield and Sue Spielman, Marjie has been privileged to have many opportunities to present on Spirited Aging to older adults and aging services providers, and she was excited to bring the program to Chicago.
One of the key messages Marjie shared during her presentations in Chicago was the damaging effects of ageism. How serendipitous then that when she arrived at Logan Airport to fly to Chicago, she saw the pioneering anti-ageism campaign of Boston’s new Age Strong Commission. Large digital photos of older adults ranging in age from 67 to 103 were flashing on the big screen with the tagline, “I’m a lot of things and CRANKY, FRAIL, OVER THE HILL isn’t one of them. I #AgeStrong. How do you?” In a profile about the multimedia campaign, The Boston Globe wrote, “In increasingly woke Boston, some call [ageism] the last socially acceptable bias.”
While presenting at The Selfhelp Home in Chicago, a continuing care retirement community, Marjie asked attendees to share their age, if they felt comfortable, and to share their thoughts about aging. A 102-year-old woman at the event said, “Age should not be a criteria for describing how a person should be known.” Marjie told her that she couldn’t agree more! In fact, the woman’s comment reminded Marjie of Ashton Applewhite, the writer and activist, who delivered a popular TED Talk titled “Let’s End Ageism.” In her talk, she defines ageism as “discrimination and stereotyping on the basis of age” and explains that “stereotypes are always a mistake, of course, but especially when it comes to age, because the longer we live, the more different from one another we become.”
The presentation at Temple Emanuel was a kick-off event to start discussions on aging and growing older. It was open to the public, and the room was filled with people of all different backgrounds. The rich discussion involved many topics, including ageism, which research shows can affect well-being. These types of discussions underscore the purpose of the Spirited Aging program and are very helpful when navigating the experience of growing older.
Aging and Resilience
For her final presentation at Jewish Child and Family Services in Chicago, Marjie drew upon the Spirited Aging program she runs for the JF&CS staff in Waltham. “The workplace is ideal for the Spirited Aging program because it is so multigenerational,” said Marjie. “It is wonderful when we can discuss meaningful topics with staff of all ages, and we know from research that bringing different generations together is one of the most effective ways to combat ageism.” Marjie felt inspired being with her Chicago colleagues as they shared their own experiences, personally and professionally.
Marjie ended the presentation by quoting Holocaust survivor and psychiatrist Viktor Frankl, who wrote about his own aging in his autobiography, “Recollections.” His words highlight the importance of flexibility, resilience and the continuing need to grow as a human being. “I don’t mind getting old,” wrote Frankl. “As I say, aging doesn’t bother me as long as I have reason to believe that I am also maturing. Perhaps this is still going on, since now I see the flaws in a manuscript I finished two weeks ago.”
For information on JF&CS programs geared toward older adults, visit our Services for Older Adults page.
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