The Privilege of Aging

Rabbi Gunther Plaut, noted scholar and writer, died in February at the age of 99. The Summer, 2012 issue of Reform Judaisim magazine reprinted some of his writings, including one entitled “On Growing Old,” which was originally published in 1999.

Rabbi Plaut noted with some surprise that his possessions, including even his beloved library, became less important to him as he aged. Similarly, he observed that he had become much less focused on always accomplishing something, appreciating instead the value of “being there.” He told the story of a houseguest who spent the evening with his host by the fire, in complete silence. When he took his leave, his host thanked him for the wonderful conversation.

Rabbi Plaut did not minimize his frustration with his diminished strength or the challenges of new health problems. Nevertheless, he appreciated the privilege of being able to experience reordered priorities, a deeper feeling of serenity and a “pervasive sense of gratitude.”

As an Elder Law Attorney focusing on Life Care Planning, I confess that I am often focused on the challenges of aging as problems to be solved. For those of us who will be lucky enough to celebrate Father’s Day, I wish you the opportunity to learn the blessings of aging and to give the gift of being truly present.

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