Elizabeth Bugental, Ph D. was in her early 60’s when her best friend Mondi was dying of cancer, and Elizabeth grieved that Mondi would never have the privilege of a long life; she wanted to age successfully for both of them. She wrote the book AgeSong: Meditations for Our Later Years as a way to participate in her own later years. The manuscript languished in a drawer for 10 years until Elder Press published it in 2005.
After Elizabeth had retired from her Marriage and Family Counseling practice and was caring for her husband, James Bugental, Ph.D. (a renowned psychologist and author who had had a stroke), she developed the idea of a program where seniors could discuss questions and decisions about how to live the final chapter of their lives. She recognized that while growing old is not optional, how we age is a choice. By chance she met Ann Coffey, Ph.D., a retired Clinical Psychologist who was looking for a volunteer opportunity to continue her life’s work. They proposed this idea of meaningful groups for seniors to Margaret Hallett, the Executive Director of Family Service Agency of Marin, and AgeSong Marin was born.
An article in the Pacific Sun, Growing Old Gracefully, launched the program.
For the first two years, Ann and Elizabeth facilitated all of the eight-week groups. As the program grew, more group leaders were needed, and participants in the program were trained to facilitate new groups.
In 2007, Ongoing Groups were established for participants who had completed the first 8-week series and wanted to extend their experience. Some groups discuss the paradoxes of aging, taken from Elizabeth’s second book, Love Fills in the Blanks; others begin with a relevant newspaper or magazine article, quote, or poem.
Elizabeth passed away in 2009 and Ann became sole director of the program. By this time there were 10 facilitators, and Karen Weinberger, LCSW, joined the AgeSong team as a volunteer consultant. Karen continues to meet with the facilitators once a month to discuss group processes and issues that arise in the groups.
As of 2015, we have 19 facilitators leading groups and a roll of more than 350 people between the ages of 65 and 95 who have participated in the program. A majority of these have attended more than one AgeSong Marin group.