Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States

Aging: the Life of Senior Adults

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"To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck what you planted" (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2).

Amazing to see the stages of a flower when it suddenly comes to life and blossoms with beauty and perfume and stretches in a straight line. But now it must pass to another stage of life in order to produce new life; giving itself to the next generation of flowers.

We all are the work of God's hand. We all are formed from the dust, created in God's image. Everything in God's plan has its purpose and time, therefore we must respect it and try to understand the significance behind it.

When we think of the aging process we assume it relates to only the old people, but the truth of the matter is, that we all are aging together regardless of our age now. Some will say everyone started in the beginning in the womb and from the day we were born into existence we start the process of aging (counting down). Others say we start later in our teens or when we have evidence of physical and mental decline. Whatever stage we are in God allows us to face happy and sad moments and to gain knowledge, wisdom, and understanding.

Through our relationship with God and each other we cope with many situations. And we find ourselves grasping the idea that we all age gracefully. Therefore, we should not define anyone as strange or unique for we all are in the same boat of life. One will come on board and another will go out.

"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).

Due to rapid changes in the technology today and the fast information that is available in a touch of a button makes little value placed upon the knowledge of the past. Our younger generations are learning many exciting things that were not available to the older generation so they consider themselves more superior.

We should not treat aging as a mistake or a form of disease that needs to be corrected nor our elders as they are from different species. We all are making the same journey even if we are still at a different stage of life. Also God expects respect for the elders regardless of their appearance, circumstance, and personality.

"So Elihu, the son of Barachel the Buzite, answered and said: 'I am young in years, and you are very old; therefore I was afraid, and dared not declare my opinion to you. I said, 'age should speak, and multitude of years should teach wisdom.' But there is a spirit in man, and the breath of the almighty gives him understanding. Great man are not always wise, nor do the aged always understand justice.'" (Job 32:6-9).

In fact, we are not wiser merely due to age but wisdom is developed through the experiences that accumulate throughout our lives and affect our living. We all live our life striving to achieve many things, plans and dreams, and then suddenly we are faced with the fear of getting old and unable to achieve any more; no expectations, no hope, and struggling to maintain our health and the suffering that accompanies it.

Our attitude in life will determine our future. Some will be stuck in the stage of depression, others will use that time to enjoy and be involved with their family and friends while others will use it to reflect on their experiences and question their relationship with God.

We have to believe that each new phase in life will bring with it new experiences, new lessons, or emphasis of an old lesson. By a certain age we have to place these experiences into perspective and shape them in a way that will be beneficial us.

"Even to your old age, I am He, and even to gray hairs I will carry you! I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and I will deliver you" (Isaiah 46:4).

Some may wonder why God allowed the process of aging? They perceive it as becoming unproductive, cannot contribute to the society, and also creating burdens for humanity. God allowed aging to remind us:

  • Senior life might look fruitless to some but through that time we can
    • Gain wholeness through strengthening our relationship with God
    • God can use us much like He did with many such as Noah, Abraham, Moses, Simon, Anna, etc.
  • This existing life are not for keeps. We are here for a very short time and sooner or later we will depart. Thus we should pay attention and avoid trying to forget that we are aging.

  • To come closer to reality that we should not depend on ourselves for long and miss the perfect opportunity to know our God by establishing a relationship with Him.

  • Through challenges we grow spiritually for the hope we acquire new life which is ageless.

The senior years starts at the age of sixty-five and divided into three categories: young senior 65-74, middle senior 75-84, and old senior 85-above. Like in other stages within the human span, there are needs which varies from one person to another depending on his physical, social, and spiritual circumstances.

Despite our portrait of senior citizens that they lack many things such as good health, alertness, effectiveness, open-mindedness, independence, etc., some will tell you that these are the happiest years. Why?

  • Time to enjoy family life and friends
  • Time to do what your heart really enjoys and desires
  • Time for relaxation and not be overwhelmed by many tasks
  • Time to focus on the present moment
  • Time to live in peace and harmony with yourself
  • Time to reflect on your true thoughts
  • Time to get closer to God

Therefore the fullness of life is at every stage of the aging process especially through our relationship with God which grants us the gift of grace and does not demolish anyone. We must keep in mind when we are helping someone to find out what his/her life was before, such interests, gifts or talents, relationship with God, etc., it should be done gradually, lovingly, and wisely Then, with the grace of God, we will be able to determine the best way to help him/her find his/her calling.

There are many varieties of things that the senior citizen can do, if he/she is still in good health, such as:

  • Visiting others who is unable to get out of their home due to disability
  • Inviting others to participate in church and its activities
  • Catering meals to those who are living a busy life
  • Watching grandchildren and giving time to their parents
  • Calling people, briefly, to ask about them if they were absent in the church or the senior meeting
  • Using their talent and make things that are useful for others such as wood work, knitting, sewing, etc.
  • Reading and writing articles that may offer benefit from their experience

Otherwise, if the senior citizens are going through disability, dependency, other illness, or depression due to family loss, we must gently, patiently encourage him/her and give support and try to make him/her realize his/her need for God's grace to help him/her through life.

"And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28).

Written by
Nagwa Abdou

Practical Theology for Aging by Rev. Derrel Watkins, PhD Editor

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