We’ve been recruiting our elders and staff for a mission to Israel in the fall of 2023. It’s the third time that we’ll have taken a group of older adults to Israel and it is an incredible experience. Some of our elders have dreamt of going to Israel for their entire lives and never thought that they could do it. Others remember trips from earlier in their lives and long to have one last look at a land that means so much to them.
It is no small task to take frail elders on an international trip. It takes a lot of hands, a lot of planning and coordination and a team that is absolutely dedicated to ensuring that everyone has a safe and meaningful experience. And we are very fortunate that we have all of those elements and can make it happen.
As happens from time to time when we talk about a trip of this magnitude, someone will ask “Why? Why would you take a group of vulnerable people on a trip like this?” My answer is always “Why not?” Just because someone is of advanced age does not mean that they cannot learn and appreciate and grow. Just because someone has reached their later years does not mean that they should be denied opportunities or experiences.
I have had the privilege of seeing elders stand at the Western Wall, with their hands on that sacred stone, absorbed in the experience and feeling the power of that holy place. I’ve watched individuals well beyond the age of 90, standing at the top of Masada, basking in the achievement and the history. We’ve taken wheelchair bound older adults and managed to help them to float in the Dead Sea, hearing them exclaim in amazement at the sensation of effortless floating.
Our elders hang on every word that the guide shares and they come home and tell all of the stories. They ask great questions and they take part in lively conversations and discussions. They create memories and they fulfill dreams.
Not every trip has to be an international adventure. We’ve taken elders to Broadway plays and Major League baseball games. It doesn’t matter what the event is, what matters is that we all remind ourselves that age is, indeed, “just a number” and that, if we try, we can make anything and everything possible for our elders.
I think the philosophy of “Why not?” is one we all need to apply when interacting with elders in our lives. Rather than focusing on limits and losses, how much better it is to focus on opportunities and possibilities. We each have the ability to make things happen that can enhance life, bring joy and help dreams to come true. We just need to remember to ask ourselves “Why not?”