The length of our days is seventy years--or eighty, if we have the strength.
Psalm 90:10

The Bible teaches that old age is a blessing from God. Attitudes toward the aging and elderly are important for Christians. In the Bible the aged are regarded as resourceful people who have knowledge and gifts that can be of benefit to the society (Deuteronomy 32:7; Joel 1:2-3;Titus 2:2-5). The Bible has a positive view of old age and sees it as a fulfilled life lived in devotion to God.

The society has a moral obligation to care for its aged members. You can judge the character of a society by the way it provides for its aged members. The Church also has a responsibility to care for the aged and to provide ministries that will cater to their needs (Proverbs 23:22; 1 Timothy 5:1-6).

Old age is not to be despised. Sometimes it seems that people are ashamed of their old age and go to lengths to conceal their aging signs. We should not be embarrassed of our old age. Alfons Deeken writes: “ that old age,  far from being an embarrassment, is in fact a golden opportunity for human growth, fulfilment, and deepness.”

While we must be positive about old age, we must not present it in all rosy terms and forget the difficulties which it brings. It has its positives and its negatives. The process of aging brings about a deterioration of the human body and there is always some kind of loss. This loss is emotional as we experience the death of family and friends and witness the fading of our powers and abilities. It is also physical as the body suffers ailments that are associated with old age. As we grow older we must learn to live with loss; this can be difficult.

The presence of members of the Alzheimers Association holds up before us one of the greatest losses associated with old age - Alzheimers Disease which affects our faculties and mental senses.

Old age is not always a pleasant experience (Ecclesiastes 12:1-7).

To view old age from the perspective of the Cross is to be willing to accept with courage the ‘suffering’ that accompanies old age. Christ does not promise us an easy life; he challenges us to take up our crosses and bear them faithfully with the assurance that he will not leave us or forsake us. Peter writes: “So those who suffer according to God’s will should, in doing good, entrust themselves to a faithful Creator” (1 Peter 4:19). Part of the challenge of growing old is to be content and accept the changes that come with old age. Old age has its challenges.

Our intentional denial of aging which takes many forms to cover up the loss of youth is a sign of our unwillingness to accept our human limitations and finitude. We do not like to entertain the idea of getting old because it makes real the fact that we are creatures limited by space and time and that our bodies will lose their vitality. It exposes our mortality.

One of the greatest fears associated with old age is that of losing our independence. As we grow old we become dependent on others for help in our daily lives. Many persons find it difficult to accept this and what we describe as old people’s obstinacy or stubbornness is really an attempt of their part to assert their independence. But if we recognise that we are dependent on God for everything we should not find it difficult to accept the fact that in our old age we will need to depend on others for help.

Many persons find it difficult to accept this and what we describe as old people’s obstinacy or stubbornness is really an attempt of their part to assert their independence. Unfortunately, the consumerism which pervades all segments of society defines who we are by what we own or consume or both. But as we grow old we must remember that our human value has nothing to do with what we have or do, but with the fact that we have value because we are made in the image of God.

Growing old from the perspective of the cross is a call to live a full life. The cross invites us to make the best use of time and not to squander it. The emphasis should not be on living just a long life though that might be desirable but living a quality life. A long life which does not make any contribution to the development of human kind is a wasted life.

Thanks to science and medicine, more and more people are living longer. It is believed that most people have the capacity to live to age 70. How can we live useful lives in our old age? The cross is a summons to us to follow the example of Jesus who lived a life of service. Jesus says in the Gospels: “For the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45).  We can avoid old age being an empty encounter by getting involved in some kind of activity that allows us to share our knowledge, wisdom and experiences with others. If we only focus attention on ourselves in our old age we run the risk of making it a boring time. Old people must find ways to fully utilise their time and do not accept the present thinking that once you have reached a certain age you have no contribution to make to society. This is a fallacy.

There is a time for every thing. It is likely that our old age might be the time to answer God’s call to serve.

Within the context of aging from the perspective of the cross the society and the church must frown on perceived employment practices that discriminate against persons who have reached middle age. Persons in the forty and over age groups are finding it difficult to find work. This kind of discrimination is an affront to their human dignity, demeaning and robs them of the opportunity to provide for themselves and their families. Given the present economic problems the world faces and the dire need for persons to make ends meet, refusal to employ persons on the basis of age is cruel and insensitive.

On the cross Jesus broke down the walls that separated Jews from Gentiles and united human kind in a common bond. The cross’ message of reconciliation speaks to what we call the generation gap. Both old and young must work to overcome this problem and recognise their need for each other. We are not in competition with each other, the old need young people’s care and help and young people can benefit from the experience and wisdom of the old. Neither can write off each other.  “The old have an obligation to show the young that elderly people still have worthwhile contributions to make. That will not only help the older people to be treated better but also assist the younger to deal more positively and less fearfully with their own aging.”

While recognising the limitations that old age brings, the church must endeavour to ensure that all its members, regardless of age are actively involved in its ministry. Old members cannot refuse to engage in ministry under the pretense that they have been working for years and it is time for the young to take over. Each member of the body has a contribution to make and age can be no excuse for non-involvement. We all must make a contribution based on what our ability would allow. Old members of the church need to remember that God’s call to Christian service knows no age or time limits. But as old members exercise their various ministries they must not put obstacles in young people’s way and they should always be prepared to accept new ideas that are for the better. Mutual acceptance of each other – old and young – is what we need as we ask both to work together for the common good.

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