… and specifically, how the church ministers to older adults, especially as they approach the end of life.
Quite frankly, we could do better. Especially when, as Amy has told me that, based on statistics, the majority of the US population will be over the age of 60 in just a few decades.
We’ve talked about the way in which older adults are regarded in our individualist society in comparison to communal societies. We’ve talked about the loss of identity one feels when they age in an individualist society, when they begin to lose their sense of independence. We’ve talked about how many older adults in the coming years will have less connections with their families than previous ones, and will have a lessened sense of wisdom to pass on. We’ve talked about how, in psychosocial theory, without a sense of openness to the world and a sense of loving contribution, older adults can potentially enter old age with either a sense of despair, or a heightened bitterness and defensiveness.
And, we’ve discussed how churches have been working for decades to do a better job at the discipleship of children and youth… but we haven’t had much focus on discipling older adults, and probably have no clue on how to do it any differently than we are. (Even though that will be a huge need of the church in the coming decades.)
Really, we just both long for a more intergenerational church, in a society that doesn’t value intergenerational anything. (Although we have different ideas on how to get there. I think Amy would start with helping older adults own their role as wisdom-holders of the community and encourage younger adults to be the ones to “bridge the gap;” I would tend to start with wanting to see older adults, and the generation underneath them, begin to share their “power chips” with the younger adults, and even youth, in their communities, and encouraging all generations to be “lifelong learners,” humble and supple to change.)
On a half-way related note, I was touched by the recent interview CT did with the 92-year-old Billy Graham, particularly when it deals with his own perspective on what it is like, and what it means, to age.