I want to talk about old age and getting older. What a fascinating topic that is! It affects all of us, for young people will, one day, end up as older people.
Someone said tongue in cheek, There’s no future to old age. A little boy once asked a woman in a wheel chair in a nursing home he was visiting how old she was. She smiled and answered, 39 and holding. He looked at her and said, Well, how old would you be if you let go?
People say age is just a state of mind and that you are only as old or only as young as you feel inside. In the very popular 1991 movie City Slickers, Billy Crystal plays Mitchell, who is having a mid-life crisis with a group of his friends. They spend time reflecting and talking about life, and Mitchell says he does not want to end up an old man “wandering through shopping malls looking for the ultimate soft yogurt and muttering, how come the kids don’t call”.
Old age is sometimes referred to as the ‘sunset years’. For some of the elderly in the world, the sunset years are a time of stagnation and discouragement. People who were once involved in challenging and productive work find themselves unable to use their minds and talents as they once had. This may be due to serious health issues or an unexpected injury, and it leaves them feeling much less useful and valued. Due to loss of family members or friends, as well as various other ailments, depression often may also afflict them.
Growing Old Wisely
Who wants to grow old? Comedian George Burns, who lived past 100, quipped, It’s better than the alternative. Old age has many frightening aspects: an ageing body which is more susceptible to illness; declining strength; feelings of uselessness (especially after retirement); the loss of friends and loved ones through death; the reality of one’s own death drawing nearer; loneliness; feelings of alienation from one’s children and grandchildren, who are busy with other interests and pursuits; and, very often, financial concerns due to dwindling income.
Robert Browning famously said:
Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life, for which the first was made.
Our times are in His hand
Who saith, ‘A whole I planned,
Youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid!
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We can reach an age when we are no longer useful or important or helpful. We simply feel ourselves fading into history and grieving when we have no-one who will take up the mantle of our causes. Even Billy Graham said in a newspaper interview back in 2006, “All my life I’ve been taught how to die, but no-one ever taught me how to grow old”. (Newsweek, Aug 14,2006)
Become a volunteer somewhere, and help out with organisations you feel are worth your time, join quilting clubs, or golf clubs. As quoted in one source, a University of Michigan study found that older Americans who care for others through volunteer work or simple neighbourliness live 60 percent longer than those who keep to themselves.
Those who walk in God’s ways live more meaningful and effective lives, living productively, even into old age. It isn’t just a matter of doing the right thing, however important this may be. It is, above all, a result of living in a deep, growing relationship with God. We should not forget that it was from Abraham and Sarah, at 100 and 90 years old respectively, that God brought forth Isaac to be the first in the long line of the Hebrew people (Genesis 21:1-7). These very old people, who made a point of reminding God how old they were (Genesis 18:12), actually created the new thing God needed to continue to carry out God’s promise.
Don’t allow yourself to give in to frustration, failure and bitterness.
(Read Challenge of Old Age – Part 2)