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Stand up in the presence of the elderly, and show respect for the aged. Fear your God. I am the LORD. – Leviticus 19:32
I just completed a summer course for Adult Ministries. We learned about adults at all ages and stages of life. As adults we all have one thing in common – we’re aging! From the day we’re born, we’re aging. Society today seems to have a problem with that. So much emphasis is placed on youth! Billions of dollars are spent on products and procedures to erase the signs of aging. So much of what we see, read, and do is about staying young, and the American culture revolves around young people. While these things aren’t necessarily bad, they do pose a problem. With all the emphasis on youth, our society views aging as negative, and we have less regard for older people than in times past.
It’s ironic that this obsession with youth is happening at this point in time because as Americans are living longer and the Baby Boom generation is now 50+, older adults are one of the largest groups of our population!
Q: Who are the older adults?
A: They’re not who you think!
The majority of today’s older adults are from the Baby Boom generation. This generation started in 1945 when a “boom” of babies was born after soldiers returned home at the end of World War II. Older adults usually refers to people who are 50+ or 65+. Some older adults are considered to be the frail elderly. They are home-bound or live in assisted living housing, and have healthcare limitations that greatly limits their lifestyles. Seniors are those who function pretty well on their own, but have some limitations. The largest group of older adults are the “new old“. The “new old” adults live active, productive lifestyles. Although many are retired, they continue to work, stay busy with leisure activities, are social, and strive to live their late years much like they lived their mid-years.
Often when we think of “old people”, we imagine the frail elderly. Don’t let the term “frail elderly” deceive you! These older adults might be frail in physical condition and elderly by age, but they’re still highly functioning people who are often overlooked in our high-tech, fast-paced lifestyle. That’s a shame because these aren’t people with special needs, they’re people who are special blessings. They still have much worth and purpose in life!
In her book, Living with Purpose in a Worn-Out Body, Missy Buchanan shares the fears, concerns, joys and praises of frail elderly residents of an assisted living home. I wasn’t surprised to read about their frustrations with their physical limitations, loneliness, the joys of friendships and fellowship at mealtimes, the disparity of not seeing their children and grandchildren, and their readiness to die. What I didn’t expect was their frustration with a world that pushes them to move faster, their appreciation for new technology and their desire to learn new things (even though learning takes longer), the humility of being cared for by the children and grandchildren for whom they once gave care, the need for God and grace, and the fear that maybe they haven’t learned enough about God.
The “new old” adults and seniors share many of these concerns and fears, too! Although they don’t face the physical limitations and dependency on others like the frail elderly, seniors and new old adults express many of the same fears, concerns, praises and joys as those described above.
Despite age-related problems and limitations, older adults find joy in each day and want to have purpose. They like their time of leisure, but also strive to find work and involvements that are fulfilling, looking for ways to make a difference for others. They don’t want to be cast aside from society just because they are “old”. They are wise, experienced, humorous, loving, caring, many are adventurous, social, interested in learning new things, and have gifts and graces that make them special blessings to others.
The Bible says a lot about aging, the aged, and generations. The Bible teaches us to honor and respect our elders, and not talk harshly to them. They are called to teach younger generations and younger generations are to heed their teachings. The Bible views old age as a blessing. A long life is something to strive for as a reward from God for righteous living.
In closing this post, I’d like to share from interviews I had with two special people. One was with a 103-year old grandmother who is still active and going strong. The other was with a 104-year old retired minister who is also able-bodied and still preaches when asked. They each lived very different lives, but shared the same answer when asked about their longevity. Each attributed their long lives to right-living and taking care of their bodies. The minister felt he had been blessed with his long life in fulfillment of the promises found in the Bible about aging.
In my next post we’ll consider how church and society can tend to older adults and meet their needs.
Bible Application: Make a written or typed list of the following verses: 1 Kings 3:14, Proverbs 10:27, Psalm 71:9, Psalm 71:18, Psalm 92:14, Timothy 5:1-2, Leviticus 19:32, Job 12:12, Exodus 10:2, Deuteronomy 4:10, Deuteronomy 6:7
In preparation for my next post, please read the Book of Ruth, taking note of Ruth’s devotion to Naomi, the ways God provided for them, and how He rewarded Ruth for her devotion to Naomi.
Works referenced above: Living with Purpose in a Worn-Out Body by Missy Buchanan, Senior Adult Ministry in the 21st Century: Step-by-Step Strategies for Reaching People over 50 by David P. Gallagher, Designing an Older Adult Ministry by Richard H. Gentzler, Baby Boomers and Beyond by Amy Hanson