Positives for Older People: Appreciating Old Age, Part 2

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Positives for Older People

Appreciating Old Age, Part 2

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Bible heroes weren’t any more exempt from the traumas of aging than we are today. Isaac at 137 had eye problems. “Now when Isaac was old and his eyes had become clouded so that he was not able to see, …he said, See now, I am old, and my death may take place at any time” (Genesis 27:1-2 Bible in Basic English). With his infirmities, Isaac thought his death was imminent; yet, in fact, he lived on for another 43 years (Genesis 27:1-2; 35:27-29). Jacob had a portent of his death at 147, but held on until he saw his son Joseph and his grandchildren (Genesis 47:28, 33; 48:1-2, 10, 21; 49:33). Much later King David, at only 70 years of age, was termed “very old” and had poor circulation (1 Kings 1:1). His 80-year-old friend Barzillai said, “How long have I to live, that I should go up with the king to Jerusalem? I am today eighty years old. Can I discern between the good and bad? Can your servant taste what I eat or what I drink? Can I hear any longer the voice of singing men and singing women? Why then should your servant be a further burden to my lord the king?” (2 Samuel 19:34-35, New King James Version throughout, unless otherwise noted). Aging comes with its challenges—and they certainly aren’t to be dismissed as of little consequence. They are a trial of life. But one that is part of God’s plan. What does God intend we learn by the aging process? We try to counter aging effects by lighthearted banter. Popular anecdotes about seniors illustrate this: “When I bend down to tie up my shoes, I look around to see what else can be done while I’m down there.” Or, “These days my back goes out more than I do.” Or, “When I go down to the shops, I often wonder whether I’m coming or going.” It is important to keep a positive, humorous outlook on aging because God designed the process. And it’s not the act of a vengeful God. Positives to appreciate Aging brings maturity and mellowing, born from the crucible of experience. There is digestion of life’s experiences, an assimilation of loss and grief in life. We experience a loss of youthful vigor, appearance, health, career position and income through retirement. And there can be the death of a spouse, family members or loved ones. There is the realization of Job: “Naked I came…, and naked shall I return” (1:21). Paul explained, “For we brought nothing into the world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out” (1 Timothy 6:7). The aged have absorbed the “blows” and “wounds” of life. Some heal, some scar. The mature reassess their life experience. They often see they’re not going to reach their “dream.” But they also no longer feel they must protect some inflexible position. John the Baptist at a youngish 30 maturely concluded, “He has to become greater, while I become less” (John 3:30, BBE). The elderly know what works. They can make decisions with an economy of action. They can cut through much behavioral baggage by seasoned judgment developed from experience. Maturity means being less preoccupied with financial concerns and advancement. Maturity means composure, a lessening of the extremes of emotional highs and lows. There is less exuberance and less depression. The mature years bring a greater sense of being in control of life. Older people may want to feel young, but not be young again. They have too much self-control, ease of interpersonal relations and self-confidence to trade for a youthful age again. Men in maturity Older men become much more comfortable with themselves and their mates. Aging causes many men to accept their present place on the career ladder; it becomes “far enough.” They are at peace with themselves. A 60-year-old can comment: “I’m too old for politicking or infighting anymore, I just want peace and quiet.” The shift of interest is toward developing skills and spending more time with friends and family. Mature men show more affection for their mates and value the part their wives have played towards the family. Romantic love can blossom and mature for many older people. This is the beauty of committed love from a lifelong devotion. A lengthy partnership of love in facing good and bad times, means a husband and wife are real friends. Committed love over long years yields the highest return on this faithful investment. It becomes a marriage of advanced maturity. Looking back on child rearing, men attribute much of the teaching and nurturing to their wives, indicating they themselves were too busy making a living. With less financial obligations they desire more companionship from their marriage relationships. Women in maturity While younger women are often vulnerable and dependent on their husbands, mature women are no longer weighed down by the responsibilities of family life. When children are grown up and leave home, older women have renewed energy to reassess and modify their lives. Many women look anew at the positives of their husbands and at their own personal appearance. They are more settled in what they like and dislike. They no longer feel the need to fit in with every fashion, knowing now what best suits them personally. Many develop careers for the first time, or pick up from where they left off when childbearing intervened. Grandparenting experiences bring pleasure without parental strains. Grandchildren are said to keep grandmothers young! Physical positives The benefits of regular exercise. People in their 70s and 80s can still build muscle by “pumping iron.” Loss of strength is often the reason why elderly give up independent lives. The human body was not made for a spectator role—it needs physical activity. With prolonged idleness muscles become atrophied, joints stiffen, bones become brittle, digestion is impaired and physical coordination declines. The Senior Games are testimony to people who late in life still actively pursue athletic and sporting competition. Exercise oxygenates the blood and helps release mood-elevating endorphins. Working on your health also signals to your mind an important psychological ingredient—that you have not yet given up on life and still have hope. Pets. Because animals are age-blind and don’t answer back, they are ideal company. They aren’t a substitute for people but can lighten loneliness. Sometimes a dog, cat or parakeet might be a better alternative than a marriage to fulfil the need for companionship. Generosity of spirit. Aging yields a greater self-mastery over emotions and attitudes and fosters an ability to forgive others. It allows more sharing of thoughts by letters, sayings and jokes—all things that help uplift other people. Old age should be a time that turns out better than you expected. A stage of life that you can truly say, yes, in many respects it is the best so far. Inner peace from acceptance. Older people can be more comfortable with how life has worked out—perhaps having a greater calm about the things not achieved. Yet doesn’t old age seem contradictory? Just when you’ve finally gained the competence to properly handle marriage, family and people relationships, you now don’t have the health or energy to do so! We could be moved to ask God what’s the point of it all? He might answer that your life is a preparatory stage for entering the Kingdom of God. It’s why the apostle Paul could disclose, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain… I am hard-pressed between the two; having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you” (Philippians 1:21-23). Old age is the hope of a grand new beginning. And for the elderly the Kingdom lies just around the corner.