History & Mission

Twenty Five years of Protecting your Wishes

Mother Teresa’s work with the dying left an impact on the world, and Jim Towey was no exception. Jim first worked as Mother Teresa’s legal counsel and over the years became her friend and trusted advisor. During their time working side-by-side with the sick and dying, Jim felt a calling to help those nearing end-of-life. He got to see first-hand what people wanted and learned what was important to them before death. At Mother Teresa’s urging, Jim founded Aging with Dignity, a private non-profit organization in 1996, with a mission to safeguard and affirm the human dignity of every person who faces challenges and opportunities of aging or a serious illness.

Two years later, Five Wishes was developed as the first advance care plan (ACP) to address personal, emotional, and spiritual wishes, in addition to medical treatment. It’s called the “living will with heart and soul” because we’ve based our document on what is most important – being able to define a roadmap for how you want to be cared for. It has been embraced by families, community groups, faith communities, medical and legal providers, and businesses who participate in our Five Wishes at Work program.

When creating the Five Wishes booklet, it was important for us to get it right so we consulted the American Bar Association and end-of-life experts to combine with our field knowledge. And, with the support of The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the program became a reality.

Today, Five Wishes is more than a workbook that becomes a legal advance directive when completed. It is a comprehensive, person-centered advance care planning program that offers a proven, easy-to-use approach to having effective and compassionate conversations.

The hallmark of the Five Wishes program is its simplicity and clarity. Just as the Five Wishes advance directive document is widely known for being easy to follow and understand, the full program includes easy to use, scalable tools and resources.

We continue to grow and find new ways to ensure that every person is allowed to have meaningful, compassionate conversations about what matters most so that however a person arrives at the end of life – whether through accident or illness - their wishes are known and documented, and their families are well-prepared and supported in making those end-of-life decisions.