Senior citizens have taken to texting with gusto. They even have their own vocabulary. For them BFF doesn’t mean Best Friends Forever; it means Best Friend Fainted. BYOT doesn’t mean Bring Your Own Technology; it means Bring Your Own Teeth. And GGPBL doesn’t mean for seniors Gotta Go Phone Battery Low; it means Gotta Go, Pacemaker Battery Low!
I like this one. “How was your blind date?” “Terrible! He showed up in a 1932 Rolls-Royce.” “What’s so terrible about that?” “He was the original owner.”
Let’s think for a moment about the ideal picture of retirement these days. What do you see? Ocean cruises; a healthy looking couple enjoying the best restaurants; joyous family gatherings with a few adoring grandchildren; an adult living community where you have no responsibilities, in fact, where others serve you, and everything you need is taken care of! Ah… who wouldn’t want to retire and live like that!
But not all older people retire and fade away. Some keep it rockin’! I want to show you a clip of a woman. Pretty amazing, isn’t it? And she said she just started drumming last week. Nah. Just kidding.
As the saying goes, age is but a number. And we shouldn’t be bound by this number in accomplishing what we want to do. We all know that today’s number is not the same as a generation or two ago. They seemed so old compared to the same age these days.
The truth of course is ageing brings with it its own set of problems, like reduced energy to accomplish what used to be easy. Or how our body has its serious aches and pains more and more often; and for many the pains turn into significant health issues. In these ways, we aren’t what we used to be.
Even so, it’s genuinely bizarre, especially when compared to other cultures and human societies in the past, that we put so much of our focus on youth and being young. We don’t find any significant social need for the wisdom of older people.
This actually makes no sense. As Job 12:12 says, “Wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in length of days.” True wisdom can only be attained through years of struggles and hardships, and learning from them. You cannot obtain wisdom by googling it!
In the Bible, living to an older age is considered the positive and good fulfillment of a life blessed by God and one that is devoted to God. Now
that’s not to say that those who don’t live to an old age were not loved by God, nor everyone who lives a long life is God’s special son or daughter. It means old age is a general part of God’s purpose for a normal life. “(Abraham) took his last breath and died at a ripe old age, old and contented, and he was gathered to his people.” Gen 25:8 “David son of Jesse… died at a good old age, full of days, riches, and honor….” 1Chr 29:26, 28 “Then Job died, old and full of days.” Job 42:17
The spiritual truth is this: how we choose to live throughout our earlier years pays off or it doesn’t pay off in our later years. I know my fast golf swing hasn’t done my back any good, for example. And while we all wish we had 20/20 foresight, we don’t.
This is why we need to listen to the Lord and follow the Bible’s teachings about what makes for the best way to live. Proverbs 16:31 tells us, “Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained by a righteous life.” This is especially true if you live life how the Lord asks us to live. This is what the Bible means when it says, “Follow the whole instruction the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live, prosper, and have a long life in the land you will possess.” Dt 5:33
Unfortunately, even seemingly good choices don’t always pan out that way. Often it’s because how we see life from our own society’s contemporary view may simply be at odds with how we’re supposed to live.
This is a story or a share written in the magazine Psychology Today. “Getting old sucks!” That’s what my 86-year-old father shared with me on a recent visit. He has lived in Boca Raton, Florida, since moving from my childhood home in Connecticut a few years ago.
He lives alone; his wife of 49 years, my mother, died of ovarian cancer ten years ago at the age of 73. They had this amazingly self-contained marriage and I didn’t expect my father to live much longer after my mother’s death. But he’s a pretty tough guy, having grown up poor in Brooklyn and built a remarkable life for himself and our family.
My dad lives a really solitary life. I live on the other side of the country and my sister lives in London, so we don’t see him that often (though we both Skype regularly). He has no friends and, aside from his daily walks around the neighborhood and trips to the supermarket, rarely leaves his house. His only regular contact is with his home health aide, a wonderful young woman who comes five days a week and makes sure that he eats well, takes his medication, does his physical therapy, and provides a small amount of companionship. Both my sister and I have asked my dad to move in with us, but he refuses. His world has steadily shrunk until it is now only a few miles in diameter (he no longer wants to fly).
One of the most interesting things he has shared with me is an epiphany that he is an old man (said with absolute incredulity). At first blush, this seems like an odd statement given that he is 86 years old, by most accounts a very old man. Yet, he doesn’t see himself as old even when it is obvious that he is.
Upon reflection, this incongruence of perception and reality actually makes some sense. My father has only been truly old, as defined by his health and functioning, for perhaps five years, yet he was young and vigorous for decades before that. It takes time for perception to catch up with reality, but I’m not sure it ever does.
My father told me recently that his only purpose in life now is to support the “medical-industrial complex.” And support it he does with several weekly trips to a team of physicians and physical therapists, the medical supply store, and the pharmacy. Yes, he has his small pleasures, such as Skyping with his granddaughters on Saturday mornings, reading, and watching C-SPAN. But meaning and real purpose? He says he has neither.
I agree, Dad, “Getting old sucks.”
Without meaning to act like I know what it’s like to be 86, and without meaning to sound dismissive to the pains and sorrow of no longer being young at the age of 86, still it is clear that many people make choices in their lives the consequences of which can’t be seen until it’s too late.
For this one dad, while it seemed good to be in a self-contained relationship with his wife, it also isolated him from the possibility of other communities and friendships, and ultimately being productive and having a larger purpose.
We aren’t meant to live in isolation or to live for only one other person. We should place ourselves in a surrounding with others, as well as near those who mean the most to us. It’s crucial we invest ourselves in a life beyond our own doorstep or our business life.
You’re too valuable not to do anything productive for others, the community, for your church, for God. It’s a mistake not to listen to the Lord who tells us to serve others as he served us. It’s for our own good that we are active in church and community.
If you were to think about someone else’s life, it’s almost impossible to think of him or her as being truly happy if they are never really being of service for the good of others—if they refuse to reach beyond themselves and only live for themselves or for one other person.
This is certainly true when we get older and are freed from our children’s obligations and schedules. This isn’t a time to retire from life. This shouldn’t mean freedom from everything, as if you’ve accomplished everything your life was meant to accomplish.
The happiest people are those who’ve decided to put themselves out into life by volunteering, doing, organizing, growing and challenging themselves with projects, charities, organizations and community activities.
Go on those trips. Enjoy your freedom to do what you want. Meet with friends. But remember also that the church, this church, needs you. And the truth is you need it.
Serve God by serving the church. You have abilities, talents, time, energy. Don’t hide them or waste your years by sitting and doing little. You are important to God, to church, to each other. You are the only one who can make the right decision for deeper contentment and happiness as well.
It’s never too late to go involved, to try something new, to be of service in some capacity. Right Lucille?!
Take control of your days and nights. Don’t just let them pass by without your input and investment. Don’t waste these days, weeks, months and years.
Listen to yourself. Understand how important it is to you that you do something meaningful, helpful, and important for others, without you getting a direct payback. Be in it for someone else. Be in it because God made you this way.
This is where we find our joy, our true happiness, no matter our age or capabilities. Can the church say Amen?