I asked my college English Composition classes recently to write definitions of abstract concepts, like “love, success, and home.” I got some interesting and insightful answers. Then I asked them to define “respect.” At least one-third of them mentioned how it applies to revering and honoring the elderly (like me). I asked them why they should respect their elders. A few replied that senior adults have experience and wisdom that can be valuable to a younger generation, but most of them replied that it was just the right thing to do. Respect your elders. It’s the right thing to do.
So what is “old”?
A former pastor of ours once said that age is relative to how close we are to the grave. If I die tomorrow, I’m ancient today. If I die thirty years from now, I’m a spring chicken. Since most of us don’t know the appointed day of our deaths, old age is not a fixed time. So how do we assess our purposes as the years go by? As we age, numerically and experientially, will our feelings of worth wane? As time ebbs away, so does our sense of value also? These are questions I ask myself quite often.
Life expectancy has doubled in the past 150 years, according to one source. The same website reported that beginning with the Baby Boomers (like me) the population in the U.S. has been forced to live two lives rather than one, but that the second life sometimes means quantity and not quality of life. The aged have become devalued and stereotyped by the media and the younger population. Another source said that our present culture is “where youth is fetishized…aging can become a shameful experience.”
Who will define our value based on age? The IRS? The workplace? The kids? Our own restrictions and abilities?
King David, who had passed his days of being a mighty warrior, wrote a song lyric that we now call Psalm 71 (CSB) in the Bible.
5 For you are my hope, Lord God,
my confidence from my youth.
6 I have leaned on you from birth;
you took me from my mother’s womb.
My praise is always about you.
7 I am like a miraculous sign to many,
and you are my strong refuge.
8 My mouth is full of praise
and honor to you all day long.
9 Don’t discard me in my old age.
As my strength fails, do not abandon me…
17 God, you have taught me from my youth,
and I still proclaim your wondrous works.
18 Even while I am old and gray,
God, do not abandon me,
while I proclaim your power
to another generation,
your strength to all who are to come.
19 Your righteousness reaches the heights, God,
you who have done great things;
20 You caused me to experience
many troubles and misfortunes,
but you will revive me again.
You will bring me up again,
even from the depths of the earth.
21 You will increase my honor
and comfort me once again.
22 Therefore, I will praise you with a harp
for your faithfulness, my God;
I will sing to you with a lyre,
Holy One of Israel.
23 My lips will shout for joy
when I sing praise to you
because you have redeemed me.
24 Therefore, my tongue will proclaim
your righteousness all day long…”
I prefer to let this be my life’s song for who-knows-how-many years I have to live.