Within our communities there is massive untapped potential. A wealth of experience resides, often unrecognised and under-utilised – from retired professionals, spouses, parents, grandparents, men and women of all ages and from all walks of life and backgrounds.
The collective perspectives and immense years of wisdom that our communities possess should be better utilised. This is something I have been passionate about since I directed a 2012 research project for Tag, the Institute of Jewish Social Values, on ageing enrichment.
My professional background for more than 10 years has been in human resources. Seeing many people who still have so much to give being forced to retire generated a passion to undertake some research into this area.
Since Jewish thought teaches us to value and honour our elders, I had often asked myself why our society appears to devalue the experience of older generations and relegate mature people to a limited, and often isolating, peripheral role in society.
The work that I did sought to challenge this incongruity. Directing the collation of Jewish sources in this area helped to pioneer the first paper which addressed ageing enrichment and the Judaic contribution that can be realised.
This has already been shared internationally in different academic forums, making a credible and valuable motivating force for social change.
However, now our attention must be turned to practical manifestations on a more local level: our communities.
Judaism highlights continual learning, continual giving and continual meaning as the three main themes we should pay close attention to when seeking to enrich the lives of our seniors.
Testing these ideas, through practical action-based research projects, highlighted this further.
At the onset of this research, it was immediately apparent the initiatives that helped older people realise and expand their potential and share their skills, creativity and experience with the younger generation and across different cultures.
The launch of our mentoring experience, sought to connect the knowledge and experience of our seniors by providing personal insight, direction and support to younger members of the community.
So my question, having spent longer within communities as a rebbetzen, now goes a little deeper. With communities getting older, we need to ask ourselves if we are currently enriching the lives of the older generation, allowing them to meaningfully contribute in their own unique and personal ways.
The talent pool is vast, the experience unending and they are our community’s assets. But are we all doing enough to recognise them?
• Lisa Levene is assistant rebbetzen at Hampstead
Garden Suburb Synagogue