Lora Frankel and Roz Schindler
Lora Frankel and Roz Schindler

The first new GG@GO program on Oct. 20 will be about Acquired Disabilities.

“For the unlearned, old age is winter; for the learned, it is the season of the harvest.”

The old Hasidic saying applies to everyone moving through life. Learning how to prepare for old age will surely turn those later years golden.

Taking the education challenge to heart are five members of Congregation T’chiyah, a Reconstructionist synagogue in Ferndale. Working together, they host a series of online lectures called “Getting Good at Getting Older” (colloquially known as GG@GO). The name comes from an influential book by Rabbi Laura Geller and her now-deceased husband, educator Richard Siegel (Behrman House, 2019, 310 pages). Employing Jewish wisdom and gentle humor, “the authors share their insights and recommendations on lifelong learning, relationships and community, healthy aging and the importance of purpose,” said a review.

Having covered the book’s topics last fall, the GG@GO Planning Committee is continuing the series with its own program ideas and local experts.

The committee’s intent is for GG@GO participants “to be armed with information that will allow us to continue to lead meaningful, purposeful lives, both helping ourselves and helping others,” said member Roslyn Schindler of Huntington Woods. While seniors are the target audience, the lecture topics also assist younger people in preparing for the future and better understanding the elders in their lives.

Left to right: Sandy Hansell; Syma Echeandia; Victoria Kohl; Rabbi Laura Geller.
Left to right: Sandy Hansell; Syma Echeandia; Victoria Kohl; Rabbi Laura Geller.

Preparing for Aging

In joining the committee, Sandy Hansell of Bloomfield Township acknowledged he is among the older people who find it hard accepting their advancing age. As a result, he said, “Far too many ‘geezers’ delay asking for help when they need it or taking other steps to meet their needs.”

“We do not always realize how very vulnerable we are,” said Syma Echeandia, a committee member from Shelby Township. “Many of us have not sorted out our legal affairs, cleaned our closets and properly adjusted our homes for the aging process, even though we understand the importance of doing so. That’s why meeting regularly and talking through the issues has been so important.”

GG@GO started after Victoria Kohl of Shelby Township, the congregation’s vice president, coordinated with Rabbi Geller to speak at Sukkot about her book. Each time she and the rabbi talked, “I realized what a treasure trove the book was and how fantastic the opportunity would be to continue the learning throughout the year,” Kohl said.

Lora Frankel of Huntington Woods, who sponsored and also met with Rabbi Geller, shared Kohl’s enthusiasm. After the rabbi’s presentation was “such a hit,” according to Kohl, “we took the rabbi’s suggestion to build this community by planning a series of programs that followed her book and spoke to the challenges that faced us as we aged.” Echeandia, Schindler and Hansell joined them.

The original GG@GO series on Zoom presented book chapters dealing with “Invisibility,” “Isolation,” “Purpose” and “Dependency.” For the final session, Rabbi Geller — still the planners’ “guru” – was brought back at Shavuot to talk about “the harvesting of our lives, the importance of the intergenerational community,” Kohl said. A highlight, she added, was witnessing the “beautiful exchange between the ‘seasoned’ Rabbi Geller and T’chiyah’s young rabbi, Alana Alpert.”

Frankel said members of the coordinating committee “meet periodically to evaluate past efforts and plan future presentations.” Each committee member commits to facilitating a program, usually featuring a knowledgeable speaker. For “Acquired Disabilities” on Oct. 20, she will present her friend Susan Fitzmaurice, a woman who has experienced disability most of her life and has a son, Teddy, with Down syndrome. 

Other topics under consideration include: “Grandparenting;” “Technological Aging in Place;” “Senior Activism;” “Preparing for a Better End” and “Gerontology and Geriatrics.” The sessions meet 6:30-8 p.m. monthly, on the third Wednesday. After recapping the previous program, each session continues with a new topic and presenter, followed by a Q&A discussion. 

Offered initially only to T’chiyah members, GG@GO participation no longer has boundaries. Frankel and Schindler recently did outreach for the series, telling the Huntington Woods Monday Lunch Bunch about the challenges, opportunities and benefits of retaining or regaining a life’s purpose. 

Schindler, a retired Wayne State University professor, will speak this fall about the series in relation to interdisciplinary aspects of aging in her scholarly presentation to a virtual national conference.

Moving forward, Frankel said, “We solicit input from anyone interested in GG@GO discussions to suggest additional topics of interest, and welcome other presenters with knowledge to share.” 

Congregation T’chiyah
22331 Woodward
Ferndale, MI 48220
Phone: 248-823-7115

Zoom into the next GG@GO virtual event:

“Staying Safe from Scammers” with Guest: Attorney Gen. Dana Nessel
Wednesday, Sept. 22, 6:30 p.m.
Register at www.tchiyah.org. Go to Programs and Classes. Drop down menu has the event to click on and register.

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