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Finishing Well / Part 2: Good to the Last Drop

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Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi has a very different idea of what constitutes positive aging. He makes the case that “elders” are not senior citizens who receive gold watches and retire to “play cards, shuffleboard and bingo ad nauseam.” While older adults have certainly earned the right to enjoy their time however they wish, and while there is nothing inherently “wrong” with spending time playing after all those years working, this is not the definition of an elder, says Schachter-Shalomi.

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“If somebody says to me: ‘I’m not happy about the way I’m growing old,’ I talk to them about shifting from aging to sage-ing,” he explains.

In his landmark book, From Age-ing to Sage-ing, he describes elders as “wisdom keepers who have an ongoing responsibility for maintaining society’s well-being and safeguarding the health of our ailing planet Earth. They are pioneers in consciousness who…harvest the wisdom of their years and transmit a legacy to future generations. Serving as mentors, they pass on the distilled essence of their life experience to others. The joy of passing on wisdom to younger people not only seeds the future, but crowns an elder’s life with worth and nobility.”

While this sounds like quite an undertaking for one’s later years, beginning to become an elder can be easy as intent, especially in the workforce, where mentoring often happens as a matter of course. As Schachter-Shalomi explains, “Aging itself isn’t the problem. It’s the images we hold about it, our cultural expectations, that cause our problems. To have a more positive old age, we must change our aging paradigm, the model or blueprint that determines the quality of our experience.”

To guide and assist interested adults in becoming elders, Schachter-Shalomi offers a series of “Exercises for Sages in Training.” If some of your reverse mortgage prospects or clients seem inclined towards such a path, his book might be a good place to start. The eleven exercises include:

1. Approaching Elderhood
2. The Cycles of Your Life
3. Turning Points
4. Journey to Our Future Self
5. Healing a Painful Memory
6. Giving Yourself the Gift of Forgiveness
7. A Testimonial Dinner for the Severe Teachers
8. Doing Your Philosophic Homework
9. Scripting Your Last Moments on Earth
10. Letters of Appreciation
11. Acting As An Elder of the Tribe

Each one details the actions a senior will take to complete that step towards sage-ing. And if you’re among this cohort as a reverse mortgage specialist, you might wish to explore Schachter-Shalomi’s exercises as well — then you’ll be a true “wise guide” for the seniors you serve.

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3 Comments

  1. I enjoyed the article on aging and loved the title “Good to the Last Drop”.

    I thought you might be interested in learning the history of where “Good to the Last Drop” originated. I learned this while living in Nashville, Tennessee, some years ago and found it an nice part of our Southern culture.

    Col. John Overton lived in Nashville which had a population of around 16,000, built a luxury hotel which he named The Maxwell House in honor of his wife’s maiden name. This was in the late 1800’s. A Mr.Jowel Owsley Cheek was a Kentucky traveling salesman who sold blends of coffee; The Maxwell House was one of his customers. Mr. Cheek later started his own company and began creating his own coffee blends, and among these was a special exclusive blend for The Maxwell House – this was in 1892. Often the last few swallows were bitter from the grounds used in most coffees that were served.

    In 1907, Theodore Roosevelt was a guest there and had coffee. When offered a refill, he exclaimed it was so good “It was good to the last drop”.

    This is a true story and is the derivation of the slogan now used.

    By the way, Mr. Cheek became a wealthy citizen of Nashville and created a beautiful site (Cheekwood Gardens) where many visitors go each year. They also do a special Christmas tree exhibition during the season.

    Hope you enjoyed the short American History lesson.

  2. Hi Dick ~

    This is a fascinating story! Thank you so much for sharing it. I love learning the origins of words, maxims, etc. ~ had an English teacher in high school who instilled this in us ~ and as a writer the more arcane knowledge I have, the better.

    I imagine those of us ’50 and wiser” may be the last generation to have even heard this slogan, let alone know what it means.

    Thanks for taking the time and care to type it all out.

  3. […] what we explored in posts on retiring right, and shifting “from aging to sage-ing”, as wisdom teacher Rabbi Zalman Schacter-Shalomi describes creating a highly positive old age […]


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