Reflections on Aging Well

Author, Living with Purpose in a Worn-out Body: Spiritual Encouragement for Older Adults (Upper Room) and Columnist, Aging Well, United Methodist Reporter

Top Ten Excuses Christians Give for Not Visiting the Elderly August 23, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — missybu @ 2:58 pm

While standing in line at a store recently, I overheard a conversation between two middle-aged women.  I couldn’t help but notice that each wore a cross around her neck.  Though I didn’t know them personally, my ears really perked up when they started talking about their great-uncle who lived in a nursing home.

“I just can’t do it,” said one sister in frustration. 

The other rolled her eyes and responded, “But if I have to visit him, I’ll be depressed for the rest of the week.”

It was a conversation that made me sad for the elderly uncle, but also for the countless other persons who feel the same way as these two women.  It got me to thinking about the reasons Christians, both pastors and lay persons, give for not visiting frail older adults, including their own family members.   

 I began to write down the excuses I have heard personally.  Next, I asked the Twitter community to respond with excuses they had heard or had given themselves.  Finally, I grouped similar responses into a top-ten  list.  So, with a special hat-tip to David Letterman, here are the not-so-funny excuses Christians give for not visiting the elderly.    

 10.  “Why should I?  All my life, my mother has criticized me.  Nothing’s going to change now that she’s old.  It’s better for both of us if I just stay away.”  

 9.  “I don’t know what to do when I visit an elderly person.  It’s so awkward to just sit and look at each other.”

 8.  “I don’t have the time.  I’ve got a family; I work full-time.  Then there’s Sunday School lessons, choir practice and church meetings.”

 7.  “Other people from my church already visit the elderly.”    

 6.   “But I go Christmas caroling at a nursing home each year.”

 5.    “I didn’t even know Mrs. Jones was in a nursing home.”

 4.   “I work with the youth.”

 3.  “It’s just too sad.”

 2.  “Visiting the elderly is not my gift.”

 1.  “Seeing old people struggle reminds me that I may be like that one day.”

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5 Responses to “Top Ten Excuses Christians Give for Not Visiting the Elderly”

  1. John Leek Says:

    Mine’s not knowing anyone (in state) that’s in a nursing home.

    • Joey Says:

      Do you have to know someone to share the love of Christ with them? Sometimes, a visit from a stranger is less stressful than a visit from a feuding relative…

      You might be the angel that they entertain unaware–or vice versa.

  2. John Meunier Says:

    Good poke to help us all hear what we are saying. The top 10 reasons to do it start with, “They are our brothers and sisters.”

  3. John Leek Says:

    To refine or add on to my previous comment I’d say the distance is great (as in large), but that may be a cop out. I’ve been thinking about how I don’t tend to call those people either.

    • missybu Says:

      Your honesty is refreshing! I have a feeling you are already thinking anew about how to more effectively minister to older adults who are lonely and easily forgotten.


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