3. Grace full aging listen to and affirm all the emotions of the Elderly
As we noted in the previous essay, grace-full ageing does not paint a utopian view of seniors, but affirms their frailty and vulnerability. Seniors feel all the emotions…intensely.
Psalm 71 records the plaintive prayer of an otherwise unknown poet who anticipated the coming ravages of senior years. The prayer pleads, “Do not cast me away when I am old, do not forsake me when my strength is gone.” Later the psalmist plead, “When I am old and gray, do not forsake me” (verse 18). The writer prayed for deliverance from the wicked, who will speak against him. They taunted with the words, “God has forsaken him.”
This psalmist had seen many troubles and bitterness during his lifetime; and yet, anticipated God’s deliverance from his enemies; and even more importantly- the opportunity, “…to declare Your power to the next generation” (verse 18). Even despite his fears of ageing, the writer still longed to share his life experience and love for the Lord to the next generation. Elsewhere in the midst of a nation collapsing around him, the prophet Isaiah provided assurance, “I will be your God through your lifetime-until your hair is white with age. I made you and will care for you.” (Isaiah 46:4-5).
Often living alone or limited to a residential care room, the older adult may experience a unique form of loneliness. As one woman confessed to my wife, “I am increasingly lonely as my lifelong friends continue to die and I attend more funerals.”
Fifty percent of women over sixty five are widows- a unique form of loneliness. Many older adults are forced to move out of their homes, and even communities, in order to live in senior care homes, sometimes at considerable distance from family and friends.
However, the Psalmist reminds us, “God sets the lonely in families” (Psalm 68:6). Whether through the biological family or the local church family, the community shares the “family” responsibility to stay in touch with seniors in their own homes and senior communities either through visits, phone calls, Skype visits, and small group activities. God has placed these seniors in these places so they may experience relationship in community. In fact, even in the valley of the shadow of death, where we anticipate God’s presence, the presence of people remains vital. Seniors in their final days have shared the deep importance of having loved ones at their side for prayer, encouragement and just simply presence.
Those who wisely befriend seniors and enable them to talk about their fears, regrets, family concerns, loneliness and guilt create a safe place for them to talk about life and their reflections. Those who care about older adults assure them of God’s enduring presence through all of life’s chapters.
I remember visiting with a ninety year old man who loved the Lord and lived in our community. He had succeeded in life in many ways but still experienced feelings of guilt and disappointment which overwhelmed him on occasion. “Those enemies in my mind keep taunting me”, he would say. We talked about those feelings and also the grace and presence of God in his life. We spoke of our dependence upon God for every moment.
Questions and Reflections:
- As you listen to senior adults, what fears or uncertainties do they confide in you or others?