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Spirited Aging Program Comes to JF&CS Staff: Part II
March 6, 2018
Spirited Aging Program Comes to JF&CS Staff: Part II

Posted by Jon Federman

In Part I of this story, we heard from two JF&CS Spirited Aging participants, Kathy Burnes (age 67) and Christine Guarino (age 35). In Part II, we'll hear from an anonymous woman in her 30's, and Barbara Sternfield (age 68).

The Spirited Aging program started four years ago with generous funding from the Rita J. and Stanley H. Kaplan Family Foundation. This enabled us to bring the program to vulnerable older adults in the community. Additionally, Marjie Sokoll, Director of the Betty Ann Greenbaum Miller Center for Jewish Healing, thought the program would be beneficial for JF&CS staff, so in 2014, she started a Spirited Aging group for employees. The group meets approximately once a month, at lunchtime, in a space that allows them to talk frankly about many topics related to aging in a supportive atmosphere.

Woman in her late 30's

Question 1: What motivated you to want to take the time out of your busy weekly schedule to be part of this group? 

I have always been interested in aging and spent the majority of my career so far working with older adults, so this group was of immediate interest to me. I was convinced that this would be something that I should attend after speaking with Marjie for whom I have great admiration and from whom I have learned so much. 

Question 2: What have you gotten out of your participation in this group?  

It is difficult to describe what an amazing group this is and how upon entering the room it feels as if you have left the office and are now in a completely different space, free of judgment and full of support. Marjie does an incredible job of leading by example and facilitating discussion about truly important and challenging topics. While only separated by a door, I feel miles away from the stresses of the workplace and feel I am in a space where I can be myself and share things that I may not have ever shared with anyone before. Learning about my colleagues in such a unique atmosphere has been incredibly rewarding and is truly a very unique experience. 

Question 3: How has this group impacted your own feelings about aging?

While aging is often portrayed negatively as the process of losing things (youth, health, attractiveness, productivity), I was very fortunate to have grown up with a grandmother who showed me that with age comes wisdom, strength, acceptance, a different perspective on what really matters, and an ability to enjoy life in a way that is difficult to do when you are young.  I continue to learn from those in the group that while loss is an inherent part of life, there can be much to gain as we get older. 

Barbara Sternfield, 68 Years Old

Question 1: What motivated you to want to take the time out of your busy weekly schedule to be part of this group? 

All my life, I’ve been committed to fostering a positive attitude about the aging process. I’ve spent most of my professional life working in this field, but I never had the rare opportunity to learn from my own colleagues and explore our feelings about aging.

Question 2: What have you gotten out of your participation in this group?  

A greater appreciation of the complex issues facing us on our journey of aging in an ageist culture. It makes me feel good about the personal growth work I have done in this area, enabling me to be a deeper and more effective professional.

Question 3: How has this group impacted your own feelings about aging?   

Our culture doesn’t support talking about growing older in a meaningful way. This group has given people a chance to share their thoughts and concerns that they thought were only theirs. This group has validated our feelings and helped us to know we are not alone.

Jon Federman is the JF&CS Staff Writer. A practicing attorney for more than 15 years, he is thrilled to bring his legal and persuasive writing skills to the JF&CS Marketing Communications department. Jon has a BA from Tufts University and a JD from Boston College Law School. In his spare time he is an exhibiting photographer and an award-winning cartoonist. Jon lived in London, England for five years before returning to Boston in 2011.

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