Rituals are as old as humankind, and they transform over time as our culture changes.

Consider the days when girls were considered the property of their fathers. Marriage was less about love than it was a business transaction—the father giving his daughter to another man and the man promising to support her.

We still see remnants of this ritual in today’s traditional wedding ceremonies, with the father of the bride walking his daughter down the aisle to “give her away” to the groom.

Rituals often involve a rite of passage, a marking of an important stage in someone’s life. We have birth rituals like naming ceremonies, wedding rituals like walking the bride down the aisle and death rituals like a wake or a funeral.

Rituals are a way to publicly acknowledge a change in status or a new stage of life.

But what happens when we don’t have rituals for the new normal in our society?

At the recent International Conference on Positive Aging held in Washington, D.C., I had the opportunity to speak with Rabbi Richard F. Address, the founder and director of Jewish Sacred Aging, about new rituals that are resulting from our society’s increased longevity.

Here are a few of the new stages in life for a growing percentage of the population.

Being diagnosed with dementia.

Becoming the caregiver of a loved one with Alzheimer’s.

Moving to a residential-care facility.

Giving a spouse permission to socialize with a new partner when their loved one no longer has the capacity.

I realized, as I listened to the rabbi, that organizations like Senior Concerns and the Alzheimer’s Association have been helping families create rituals around these events for quite some time.

Rituals acknowledging a dementia diagnosis often include creating a written or video history to capture treasured memories that at some point will be lost.

One woman took a sabbatical from her work to spend time with her mother, who has a diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s. Her goal was for her children to create memories with their grandmother while they still could, a lovely ritual to be considered.

Caregiver rituals are cropping up too.

Jenn Chan invented the Senior Shower, celebrating the life milestone of becoming a caregiver for an older adult in a family. This party gathers family and friends together, recognizes the vital caregiver role and showers the caregiver with useful gifts and caregiving wisdom.

Moving into a residential-care facility can be fraught with emotion and is certainly a life-changing event. Before she vacated her home, one woman I know held a dinner party in her house with family and a few close friends. They visited each room by candlelight, remembering special events and saying goodbye to her home.

Residents new to a facility try to reestablish normality by arranging their room using furniture from their previous home. They place mementos from the past that shaped their identity and evoke positive memories.

With the rise in the number of Alzheimer’s cases, spousal caregivers often seek relationships outside of marriage in response to their isolation.

I’m reminded of a gentleman who was caring for his wife, a participant in our Adult Day Program. His wife had advanced Alzheimer’s, leaving her unable to speak or interact in any way. After years of caring for her, he came to our program director and asked permission to socialize with a woman he met in a support group.

In his article “Till Death Do Us Part? A Look at Marriage Rituals When a Partner Has Alzheimer’s Disease,” Address highlights a new ritual, “An Open Letter to My Spouse.” The document, jointly signed by husband and wife, recognizes that if such a situation should come to pass, their mutual respect and love will allow for care and give permission to the healthier spouse to seek comfort from someone else.

The question Address posits is whether religious institutions will find a way to provide comfort and support to their followers by fostering rituals around this new normal.

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