Several generations ago, a woman got married in her early 20s, had children immediately, and by the time she was finished having children, she was well on the way to being a grandmother. And life was shorter.
Today, most of us can hope to enjoy many years when our focus shifts back to our own goals and purposes, much as it did in our 20s. Questions of meaning and purpose again present themselves. At the same time, we have acquired the wisdom of years, and some of us long to have that recognized and celebrated within our communities. Other important events characterize this time of life: our bodies change, some of us become grandparents, some of us retire from long-established careers, and at some point we may move out of our homes and downsize, or even move in with children or into a facility. All of these changes present opportunities for ritual.
Photo by Rabbi Roni Handler
A Simchat Chochma (Joy of Wisdom Ceremony) for a 60th birthday. Elements include the donning of a shroud, making vows, and taking a new name. [more]
A ceremony for a 60th-birthday celebrating 60 as the inauguration of a new stage of life "that promised great adventure" [more]
A ceremony for a woman to celebrate her 50th birthday in the context of her Rosh Hodesh group [more]
A short and simple ceremony marking the occasion of a 50th birthday [more]
A ritual for turning 40 and banishing the demons of self-criticism [more]
A poem in which a daughter reflects on her mother's and her mother's friends' comfort in their aging bodies in contrast to her own struggle to accept herself [more]
A ritual to celebrate aging and affirm the author's intention to remain visible and continue to work for personal and political [more]
A new ceremony designed to express one's sense of meaning and understanding of life and thus ease the acceptance of aging and death [more]
The importance of holiday rituals — including Shabbat, Rosh Chodesh, and Passover — as milestones on the time continuum for elders in residences [more]
A confirmation class, held in a nursing home, for older adults who had received little or no formal Jewish education [more]