And for all of those who will grow old in this year
The approach of old age rising, beckoning all
With its threat of discomfort, of degeneration
Where a trip to the shops or undignified fall
On the street or the stairs presents dangers unknown
To those of us who still have our strength and can not
Even begin to imagine the horrors we’d face
In our own twilight years. What might be our lot
Having ridden the storms of our hard-working lives?
Might we find ourselves banished to home now turned prison

Unable as once to make journeys or even
Approach the front door? And our hopes and our vision

Restricted to wishing that someone might call
And relieve the monotony of old age’s loneliness?
Or perhaps we might fall into poverty, suffering
Stress and distress when, though maybe not penniless
We struggle where comfort had once been our lot.
We would shuffle from armchairs across silent floors
Falling ever more victim to age’s indignities
Where once simple functions become timely chores
When preparing a meal or afternoon tea
Is exhausting, and weariness drives us to tears
As we curse at the clumsiness and the confusion
Foisted upon us with the passing of years.
Should we venture outside, to a world we once mastered

And travelled without second thought wide and far
But unsteady legs and a stick and a bus pass
Long since replaced once indispensable car.
Shall we sit at some time in a possible future
To welcome Shabbat with a meal on our own
And light Yahrzeit candles to those we have loved
Recalling the love and the joy we had known
When it still might be said that we lived. But now
We exist in a room with TV’s soulless blare
As our only companion, its images serving
As constant reminders of times we might share
With children and grandchildren, sources of joy
As we look fondly back on what we have achieved.
Now they stare at us nervously, smile their embarrassment

At someone they once knew, but they cannot believe

What we will have become, though it comes to us all

The love that we know, that we share, daily holding

The heart of a family, loving and warm
Would this gradually fade when, with old age unfolding

We become what we prayed we would never become

And appear as a burden, a trouble to those

Now obliged to support us? The strength of the family

Is vital to all – and yes, everyone knows
That we Jews are so special, our family life
Is the envy of all who look on from outside

And would tell us with awe in their voices how we

Look after our families with love and with pride

They can only admire. And perhaps the belief
In the great Jewish family has in it some truth

As we centre our lives on the needs of community

Caring for our sick, for our old, for our youth
With all the resources our efforts can muster
Such tradition gives pride to our Jewish community

Allows us to see that we truly are following

Words of the prophets in giving of charity.
Let us savour that pride, that sense of our duty
To all who are needy, less fortunate than
Ourselves: let us give and acknowledge commandment

Always to help and support fellow man.
Let us learn from our ancestors, teachers who taught
Us to honour our parents and festivals keep
Let us take from the laws in the fields of our fathers

Which told them quite clear when the time came to reap

That the corners of fields or the ends of the vine
Should be left to be gathered by the needy and poor
So that they should not starve. The instruction is clear

For our duty to give and support. Furthermore
In the divine commandment is clearly expressed
The requirement to treat with respect and with care
The senior citizens of the community.

And so, for those who will grow old in this year,

Let us take from the words of the Holiness code

Enshrined in Leviticus. Listen to God
Who bids us endeavour to lighten the load

Of those who are suffering, offer support,
And the elderly citizens, treat with respect.
They have borne us and taught us, protected and reared

Us to what we are now: they should surely expect
To be valued with dignity, sympathy, care
And not just regarded as burden, dull weight
To be borne with bad grace for the sheer inconvenience

Of having to care: love becomes almost hate
Or resentment at least at our changed circumstance:

Where once our expectancy stopped at three score
And ten of our years, mankind’s medical strides
Mean that journeys of eighty or ninety or more
Through life’s varied surroundings are common and so

As has happened before in our too rapid progress
We can no longer cope with the changes we cause
In our lives and the lives of our loved ones. Distress

Quickly follows as so many who, having hoped
For peaceful retirement when workdays were through

Are burdened with parents’ new childlike demands
And are faced, unexpected, with parenthood anew

Caring and doting and nursing for those
Whose charges thy once were. This reversal of role
Is not fully accepted nor yet understood
By our too fast society, losing its soul
In pursuit of its science, its searching for answers
To questions we know not full well how to ask
Such is what we’ve become, it will not soon be altered.

And so, with its faults, we accept it. Our task
Is now clear: let us learn from the Bible
Which never expected such length to the span
Of our days (though perhaps we should note
That our ancestor Adam, the very first man
Had a life of nine hundred and thirty, while Noah,
The builder of ark, twenty more over him
And Moses died reaching one hundred and twenty
With his strength unabated, his eye never dim).
Such longevity, thankfully, no longer ours
Leaves us nevertheless with a problem to face:
How shall we respect those whose hair is turned grey

When grey hairs of our own are already in place?
Let us turn to our science which threatens to dwarf us

And ask it for help as we contemplate here
How we might best give service and care and support
To all of those who will grow old in this year.
Housing can be provided that offers to those
Who dwell in it security, safe from the fear
That they might on dark evening or late in the night

Suffer fall or attack and that no one would hear.
Maybe medical help might be present for those
Who without it might otherwise find themselves doomed

To spend years in a hospital bed or yet worse –
In some cold institution – instead have a room
That they might call their own. And the love and the care

So miserably absent from years of so many

In life’s final days as they mark out their time
And live on for days and or weeks without any

Contact of human concern would be found
By those who, in old age, come together and share

Possibilities now and not simply despair

Of their loved ones who no longer visit or care.
Let the words of our history shout loud to us now

Across countless ages from a time that knew well

That the aged and elderly of their community

Should be respected and not have to dwell
In the silence of solitude, fear and neglect.
Let us take their example, learn from this day
Of our duty, enshrined in tradition. Ensure
That concern for our aged finds open display
In our thoughts and our deeds. None of us is so poor

That we cannot find place in our hearts for the need

To prevent devastation that old age might wreak
On us all. Let us follow instruction, take heed
Of Levitical insight which bids us to seek
For the welfare of all. This is what we are taught

And the lesson is one we must carry from here
To devote our resources, intentions and thought
To all of those who will grow old in this year.