The Elder Years: Grit, Growth, Grace

November 6 & December 4
2:00pm - 5:00pm

As we move through our elder years, how can we continue to evolve with dignity and grace? How can we remain safe, assured that “someone has my back?” How can we help our loved ones and fellow sangha members do the same?

These and related questions arose in response to the Village Zendo Book Group’s discussion last year of Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal, which addresses America’s moral and medical failures regarding the elderly. In response, the Village Zendo is offering a two-part online workshop this Fall entitled “The Elder Years: Grit, Growth, Grace”. All are welcome to attend to consider what might lie ahead for ourselves and those we love as we navigate growing old in America. Reading lists and helpful resources will be provided and also posted on our website.

We hope this series leads to further dialogue about how we can strengthen our sangha and receive support while supporting others. Please join us!

For questions or further information contact

Laying the Foundation: Planning for Safety, Security and Support

December 4
2:00pm – 5:00pm
Online only

Presented by David Jimon Kunin, Diana JiFu Liakis, Marjorie ChoGaku McCoy

In Tricycle’s Winter 2022 edition, longtime Buddhist practitioner and author Douglas Penick wrote “If you are reading this, your chances of ending up in a nursing home are just short of 50/50. That is to say, 4 out of 10 of Tricycle’s readers are likely to end their lives in institutional care…. [P]eople have to make the most difficult decisions, plans concerning the last years of their lives, at a time they are least capable of doing so. Nonetheless, we will age, and something will happen to us…. As Buddhist practitioners, we will frequently have heard that we should practice to prepare for death. Now it will be clear that, as Buddhaghosa indicates, the path that will prepare us for death is old age itself.”  (Penick, The Magic & Mystery of Aging)

Our second workshop on the challenges and gifts of aging will offer practical information and resources for planning legally, medically, socially and situationally for our elderhood and death. The workshop will include formal presentations, as well as opportunities for participant questions and confidential intimate expression. (Specific medical, financial and legal advice will not be provided).  

To prepare for the workshop, registrants and presenters alike are encouraged to reflect on “homework” questions, which are found here.  

The workshop’s updated reading and resource list is found here.

We recommend attendees have the reading and resource list, as well as pen and paper, available to you during the workshop.

Laying the Foundation: Recommended Reading


Callahan, The Troubled Dream of Life

Ehrenreich, Natural Causes: An Epidemic of Wellness, the Certainty of Dying, and Killing Ourselves to Live Longer

Gawande, Being Mortal

Nuland, How We Die:  Reflections on Life’s Final Chapter

Brody, Jane Brody’s Guide to the Great Beyond:  A Practical Primer

Callanan and Kelley, Final Gifts

Grave Expectations:  Planning the End Like There’s No Tomorrow

Willis, Lasting Words:  A Guide to Finding Meaning Toward the Close of Life (written by a former student of VZ’s Foundations in Contemplative Caregiving class)

Matlins and Magida, eds., How to be a Perfect Stranger:  The Essential Religious Etiquette Handbook 

Matlins, ed.:  The Perfect Stranger’s Guide to Funeral and Grieving Practices: A Guide to Etiquette in Other People’s Religious Ceremonies

Buddhist Resources

Lief, Making Friends with Death

Ostaseski, The Five Invitations

Thurman, Robert. The Holy Teaching of Vimalakirti: Mahayana Scripture. University Park, PA: Penn State Press. 2001.

Musho Rodney Greenblat: Dharma Talk “Facing Sumeru”, Sept. 1, 2022

Hospice Resource

David Jimon Kunin’s “Metaphors to Help Hospice Nurses’”

New York Resources  (Most states have similar resources, findable online)

Governor Kathy Hochul’s executive order for a Master Plan on Aging in New York State.

The New York State Department of Health website has an excellent and vast collection of information on health issues at:  For example, among many other articles under the letter “A” in its A to Z listing, one can locate information on adult-care facilities, AIDS/HIV, Alzheimer’s Disease and other dementias, advanced directives, arthritis.

New York State Medicaid Program:

The New York State Office for the Aging website offers information on programs and resources for elders, as well as assistance in locating appropriate care.  Also check out its “innovation and tools” link.   

The Alzheimer’s Association/New York State Coalition is the statewide organization supporting all New Yorkers affected by dementia.

New York’s website devoted to “right to die” issues and advocacy is:  The website includes a map showing the status of such legislation in each of the 50 states.

The New York State Bar Association website has a public resources section that includes information on how to locate an attorney in relevant specialized fields such as elder law; trusts, wills and estates; real property; and how to locate pro bono (free) legal services in the State.  Go to  Several New York City local or specialized bar associations have similar services.  For example, The New York City Bar Association:  Finally, most county bar associations in New York also have an attorney referral service.  

National Resources

2020 Profile of OLDER AMERICANS including The Administration on Aging, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: May 2021.

Economic Policy Institute: The state of the residential long-term care industry/A comprehensive look at employment levels, demographics, wages, benefits, and the poverty rates of workers in the industry. July 27, 2022

AARP summer 2022:  United States – AARP International 

“More than 37 million older adults do not have adequate financial resources.

More than 10 million older adults face the threat of hunger.

More than 19 million people older than 50 live in unaffordable, unsafe, or inadequate housing.”

Understanding Medicaid Eligibility: Basic home care and nursing home eligibility. Video upon request.  DC 37 Members Education Series. September 21, 2022,  Douglas J. Chu, Esq.

National Association for the Deaf: services/tty-and-tty-relay-services/

Selected Articles

Some Answers to Your Questions

How Does Loneliness or Social Isolation Affect Seniors?

Do I Need a Geriatrician?

How Do I Keep my Home Safe as I Age?,when%20you%20walk%20on%20them.

How Do I De-clutter?

Where/How Can I Donate Household and Personal Goods?

How Do I Transition to a Smaller Space?

How Do I Locate the Right Senior Living Facility for Me?,%2D800%2D677%2D1116.

How Do I Find an Intentional Community?

What is a MOLST?

What is a Living Will?

What is a Health Care Proxy?

What is a Power of Attorney?,to%20act%20on%20your%20behalf.

What does Estate Planning Entail?

See also the Reading and Resource list prepared for the Spiritual Challenges in Aging Workshop (given November 6, 2022)

Laying the Foundation: Homework

Before the December 4th workshop, spend time thinking about, perhaps writing on, some or all of the following questions, as well as any others that arise during this process. Thank you.

What strengths, gifts, experiences do you bring to your elder years?

What steps have you already taken to prepare for your safe, secure aging?

Do you know whether you need a will? If so, do you have a current will?

Do you have a health care proxy? A power of attorney?

Where do you keep your important documents? Who knows where they are?

Do you have family and/or friends you plan to age alongside? Live with? Do they know that?

Do you expect to use in-home care of any kind to allow you to live as you wish?

Can you afford to live where and how you hope to spend your final years?

The Path of Wisdom and Compassion

November 6
2:00pm – 5:00pm
Online only

Spiritual Challenges, Gifts and Practice in the Elder Years

Led by Willie Mukei Smith, Anne Jisei Reigeluth, Trudi Jinpu Hirsch, Sherri JyaKuen Posey, Tita Angangco, Keely Rakushin Garfield and Marjorie ChoGaku McCoy.

Spiritual Challenges of Aging: Recommended Reading

Bridges, Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes

Crosthwaite, What it Feels Like to Change

Frankl, Yes to Life: In Spite of Everything

May, The Dark Night of the Soul: A Psychiatrist Explores the Connection between

Darkness and Spiritual Growth

Moody, The Five Stages of the Soul

Singh, The Grace in Aging: Awaken as You Age (Buddhist perspective)

Schacter-Shalomi, From Age-ing to Sage-ing

Atchley, Spirituality and Aging

Richmond, Aging as a Spiritual Practice (Buddhist perspective)

Richmond, Elderhood: A Buddhist Approach to Aging Well

Fischer, Taking Our Places: The Buddhist Path to Truly Growing Up


Lama Surya Das, The Big Questions: How to Find Your Own Answers to Life’s

Essential Mysteries (Buddhist perspective)

Egan, On Living

de Hennezel, The Warmth of your Heart Prevents Your Body From Rusting

Hillman, The Structure of Character

Grosz, The Examined Life: How We Love and Find Ourselves

Willis, Lasting Words: A Guide to Finding Meaning Toward the Close of Life (written by a student of VZ’s Foundations in Contemplative Caregiving 2010-2011 class)


Scherer, Work and the Human Spirit

Cope: The Great Work of Your Life

Toms, True Work: Doing What You Love and Loving What You Do

Ellison, The Third Act of Life

Palmer, Let Your Life Speak


Bernhard, How to be Sick – A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and their Caregivers

Price, A Whole New Life: An Illness and a Healing

Levine, Unattended Sorrow: Recovering from Loss and Reviving the Heart (Buddhist Perspective)

McKeithen, blue peninsula: essential words for a life of loss and change


Levine, A Year to Live: How to Live This Year As If It Were Your Last (Buddhist perspective)

Levine, Meetings at the Edge: Dialogues with the Grieving and the Dying, the Healing and the Healed (Buddhist perspective)

Levine, Who Dies? An Investigation of Conscious Living and Conscious Dying (Buddhist perspective)

Dalai Lama, Advice on Dying: And Living a Better Life (Buddhist perspective)

Hitchens: Mortality

Eagleman, Sum: forty tales from the afterlives

Saunders, Beyond the Horizon


Kunitz, Passing Through: The Later Poems

Zuckerman, Eugenia, Like Falling through a Cloud

Updike, Endpoint: and other poems

Murray, ed., Poems to Live By: In Uncertain Times

Young, The Art of Losing: Poems of Grief and Healing

Your participation is important to us. If you would like to attend but are unable to give the full payment contact Ryotan Roshi at the Kaku Sensei Memorial Scholarship Fund.

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