Elders Or The Elderly?

A 79-year-old-mother of five and grandmother of twelve with a lifetime of experience in early childhood education volunteers as a grandmother for troubled children at her local elementary school.

An 84-year-old Marine who began writing award-winning poetry in her 50s now mentors young poets via email submissions

A 70-year-old retired professor serves as a supervisor for probationers on Saturdays building wheelchair ramps for needy local residents

These amazing anecdotes are not inspirational fiction–they are about friends of mine, one of whom is my mother! In fact, they and so many others are more than friends, they are my elders. As I pass into the second half of my life, they remind me that aging means more than an increasing collection of gray hairs and memories. For them, each year lived is another deposit in their investment of experiences that can be gifted to the world. What an outlook on philanthropy!

In a recent article in Sojourners Magazine, Richard Rohr discusses the spirituality of aging. He suggests that, in late life, we should embrace our life experiences as elements of our spiritual journey and further that we should look expectantly forward as we grow towards God. Those two ideas: valuing our past and welcoming the future affirm Rohr’s suggestion that spirituality can be a practical concept. As he puts it,  God comes to us disguised as our life! In that context, every minute of every day can be an inspirational and transformational moment.

I have an older pastor friend who rebukes those who use age (even middle age!) as an excuse for not participating in mission. He tells his congregants, We never retire from service to the Lord!

It’s true, God invites us to see that our lives be directed toward others, no matter our age…or, for that matter, our circumstances.  So, whether you are eighteen, twenty-eight, fifty-eight or eighty, the world needs you and you need the world. Best of all, there is much to be gained from serving the Greater Good and inspiring others to do the same. We grow in the process!

Consider how you view your own aging:

  • Do you plan to grow or just go gray?
  • What wisdom has life taught you so far?
  • Are there ways you could use your life experiences?
  • How can you embrace your future?
  • Who needs you to be their mentor?

We can be a Blessing when

We Become Elders, Not Just the Elderly!

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