Respecting the Elderly

Letís begin with a paper that was written by a third grader. Itís very interesting to see how children view different aspects of life. So, again, keep in mind that this was written by a child around the age of eight or nine. Itís called "Whatís a Grandmother?"

Whatís a Grandmother?

"A grandmother is a lady who has no children of her own. She likes other peopleís little girls and boys. A grandfather is a man grandmother. He goes for walks with the boys, and they talk about fishing and stuff like that. Grandmothers donít have to do anything except to be there. Theyíre so old that they shouldnít play hard or run. It is enough if they drive us to the market where the pretend horses are, and have lots of dimes ready. Or if they take us for walk, they should slow down past things like pretty leaves and caterpillars. They should never say, "Hurry up". Usually, grandmothers are kind of big, but not too big to tie your shoes. They wear glasses and funny underwear. They can take their teeth and gums off. Grandmothers donít have to be smart, only answer questions like, "Why isnít God married?" and "How come dogs chase cats?" Grandmothers donít talk baby talk like visitors do, because it is hard to understand. When they read to us they donít skip or mind if it is the same story over again. Everybody should try to have a grandmother, especially if they donít have a television, because they are the only grown-ups who have time."

Well, Thereís a lot of truth to that letter.

Statistics on the Elderly

One of the fastest growing segments of our society is the elderly. Population researchers predict that by the year 2020, men and women 65 and older will make up, about 44% of the U.S. population. The statistics for Japan and Europe are similar.

According to new projections from the U.S. National Institute of Aging, by the year 2040 the average life expectancy for American men could rise to as high as 87 years. Thatís 17 years longer than todayís average. The same study projects American women could reach an average life expectancy of 92 years, thatís up from 78. So if people are going to live longer, then weíd better start planning for it.

Many Worship Being Young

Many in America and several other Western nations practically worship being young. They have not stopped to consider their aging parents or their own passing years.

To solve this problem many, as Parade magazine called it, "Warehouse the elderly in nursing homes" and in too many cases the results have been tragic. Such as: loss of dignity, self-esteem, and identity.

Inadequate facilities, poor treat-ment, improper medical attention, and neglect have become major issues in the subject of nursing homes.

Of course there may be a proper time and place for full-time care facilities. In cases of sickness or even companionship, some elderly prefer a group care facility. The important thing is that families work together, so where do we start.?

What Does God Say About the Elderly?

Now letís take a look at the importance of the elderly and what God says about them. The first step when looking at aging is to see it in the positive light that God intended and not regard it as a necessary evil. From Ancient times God instructed people to honor the older generation. That instruction is recorded in the Bible.

One of the instructions that the Lord spoke to Moses regarding the elderly is recorded in Leviticus 19:32: "You shall rise up before the hoary head, and honor the face of the old man, and fear thy God: I am the Lord"

Later Solomon wrote the following in Proverbs 16:31: "The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness."

Somewhere along the way especially in this century, we in this society seem to have lost our perspective on aging. The Word of God says to respect and honor the older generation. The apostle Paul showed the value of respecting older men and women that he wrote in a letter to the young evangelist Titus: "that the older men be sober, reverent, temperate, sound in faith, in love, in patience; {3} the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; {4} that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, {5} to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed" (Titus 2:2-5 NKJV).

The passing years develop these admirable qualities in an older person. If younger people only realized what they could learn from the older generation, then societyís quality of life would be much better. Aging, once a matter of respect and dignity, has now become for many, a burden. Often individuals have not prepared themselves for the later years.

How do we reverse this trend of seeing the elderly as a burden instead of an asset? How do we solve this problem? Well, one answer is that the responsibility should largely rely on the family. Families should pull together and develop plans that include retirement age and beyond.

Itís a myth that all old people are sick, incapable of learning, and needing someone to constantly watch over them. Itís also a myth that most need public care; in fact, many if not most older people are capable of caring for their needs on their own. They can live in their own homes or apartments leading active and productive lives. They can learn new things, possibly attend college classes. Many find pleasure and reward by serving others who have physical or emotional needs.

Perhaps the most important matter of all - they can provide a wealth of experience and wisdom to pass along to the younger generation. All of these valuable experiences will not be conveyed if at age 65 or 70 we put everyone away in a "warehouse for old people." If we did that, then both the young and the old would lose out. To learn from parents and grandparents about marriage and child rearing is to learn from those who have been there and know what it takes. Honor, love, respect, and care for the aging are important responsibilities for all of us.

Again most important of all let those wise years of life influence those around you, children and grandchildren, nieces and nephews, neighbors and friends from your local community.

To those who are yet younger, reevaluate your thoughts and theories about growing old. Do as the Bible admonishes- give respect and honor to those who have lived a long life and gained valuable experiences.

Express your love and appreciation for your parents and grandparents. How? By honoring them in keeping the fifth commandment: "Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you" (Exodus 20:12 NKJV).

Express your love by calling them often. Visit them as much as you can. Extend your family from the oldest to the youngest. Itís one of the best investments youíll ever make.

In conclusion: Letís finish with a short poem called "Our Treasure"

Our Treasure

( By Cara Marie Filipeli )

"Oh the value of the elderly! How could anyone not know.

They hold so many keys, so many things they can show.

We all will reach the other side this I firmly believe,

And the elderly are closest oh what clues we could retrieve.

For their characters are closest to how weíll be on high.

They are the ones most developed, you can see it if you try.

Theyíve let go of the frivolous, and kept things that are dear.

The memories of so sweet, of loved ones that were near.

As a nation we are missing our greatest true resource,

To get to know our elders and let them guide our course."