In Japan, some married couples — when faced with advancing age and the “empty nest” syndrome — choose to spend their final years in Buddhist monasteries.

The monastic environment offers a number of advantages:

In a like-minded community of both young and old trainees, ambient despair (the disability, dementia and depression that exist in an aging secular community) appears with much lower frequency. (anecdotal)

Because zazen (meditation – sitting quietly) is  integrated into every aspect of a trainee’s life, this simple, but powerful tool – after diligent practice – fills every moment of the trainee’s life. Thus, there is no need to “kill time” with hours of Bingo and Pinochle. Time itself becomes infinitely valuable.

Trainees ultimately learn that everyone: Buddhist, Hindu and Atheist alike possess the Buddha Nature — our original, primal nature. Therefore, it’s no surprise that when fellow monks become old and infirm, they still retain value. This is when long term care takes on a new dynamic. People, regardless of their level of ADL failure, are treated with respect and compassion.

Everyone dies, yet to grow to grow old and not know who you are — this is the profound sadness of “world mind.”

And while it is tempting to cast blame on “evil corporations” and “reckless REITs”  for imperfect SNFs and CCRCs, rarely do these equations balance. Seniors are rarely held accountable for their lack of determination and vision. Our parents are not helpless victims and it’s time we stopped treating them as such, world mind or not.