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

What happens in Vegas…. October 26, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — missybu @ 9:00 am

I had an odd spiritual experience in Las Vegas this weekend where I was signing copies of my book at AARP’s Vegas @50+ Expo.  My publisher, Upper Room Books, had scheduled several book signing events throughout the day so I could meet and greet older adults from across the nation.

As I signed one woman’s name in a book, she leaned over and said something that caught my attention.  “I’m so glad to finally see a Christian organization here.  I’m going to fill out my evaluation and tell AARP that it’s about time!”

Turns out, the woman had attended many other AARP events, and this was the first time she’d remembered visiting a booth that addressed the spiritual needs of older adults.  Her comment seemed to support something I’d already heard.  That Upper Room was indeed breaking new ground as an Expo sponsor.

Now I don’t claim to understand all the business issues involved in such a decision, but the woman’s  comment certainly made me think.    

Throughout the day, I had witnessed aging Boomers and even-older adults carrying bags stuffed with promotional freebies.  Some would glance over to the Upper Room booth in casual disinterest.     

But then there were the many older adults in power chairs, grown children with aging parents,  Sunday School teachers and church volunteers who specifically sought out the Upper Room booth.  They came, many wearing both cross necklaces and their AARP name badges around their necks.   They left, smiling and offering words of encouragement and blessing.   One man and his wife, a UMC lay minister from New York, even stayed at the end of the day to offer a prayer for this ministry.    

The event reminded me of the enormous mission field that exists within the fast-growing population of older adults.  At the same time, it buoyed my spirits to witness the misty eyes and tender hearts of so many older adults who came, sharing their faith along with their own stories about aging.  

One thing I know for sure.  What happens in Vegas doesn’t always stay in Vegas.  I am confident many folks left the Neon City with a renewed passion for encouraging senior adults, and each other, on this spiritual journey of life.  I know I did.

 

Bible study for the ages October 18, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — missybu @ 7:47 pm

Tonight, was the last session of a Bible study I’ve been facilitating for the last couple of months. As has become tradition for our group’s studies, we concluded this final session with a service of Communion.  We stood in a large circle around the make-shift altar, and the minister led us in the liturgy.   I lifted my eyes just before the prayer’s amen and caught a glimpse of heads bowed, bathed in candlelight.  It took my breath away, as it always does.  We ranged in age from early twenties to eighty-something.  There were gray heads and dyed heads, bald heads and and a ponytail.  I inhaled the moment and whispered a thank-you.  For no matter our ages, no matter our stages… we are His.

 

Thanksgiving: What older adults are thankful for this year October 11, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — missybu @ 3:33 pm

In preparation for the Thanksgiving season, I asked a group of older adults at a senior care residence to share what they are most thankful for, other than their families.  As November approaches, I hope you will ponder their responses. 

“I was very healthy until the last few years of my life.  I am thankful for that.  But now that my health has deteriorated, I am grateful for medications that help me to be more comfortable.”

“I am thankful for members of my church who visit me like clockwork every week.  A group of them bring the church van and even take me out to lunch sometimes.  Their visits are such a boost.  They will never know how much those visits mean to me.”

“I am thankful for my new friends here at the retirement village.  I came here knowing no one.  It was a scary time for me.  My husband had died.  I had sold my home.  I dreaded moving here, but some of the residents welcomed me as if they had known me forever.  I am so grateful for them.”   

“I am very thankful for large-print books, especially Christian books. Even though my eyesight is poor, I love to read.  The large-print books bring me comfort, especially when I am feeling lonely.”

“Laughter!  I am thankful for people who make me laugh.  On days when I hurt, laughter keeps me going.”

“I’m grateful for a full night of sleep.  It’s rare that I sleep all the way through the night, but when I do, I praise God for it.  I feel like a new man.”

“I am thankful for the colors of each season.”

“I’m grateful for nice neighbors who check on me each morning to see if I’m still alive.”

“I love surprises, so I am thankful when someone brings me an unexpected treat.”

“I am thankful that I have a computer, that I have a lifetime of memories, and that I’ll hopefully have enough money to carry me through to my last breath.”

 

Three Old Geezers and Me October 5, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — missybu @ 7:05 pm

Last week I took two elderly men to visit their former tablemate from a senior residence.  He was a 91-year old man who had moved to an assisted living facility twenty miles away. All three older men are my friends. Thankfully, the experiences I’d had with my own father, who died a few years ago at age 89, helped me understand how difficult it is for men who were once physically strong to deal with the challenges of deteriorating health.

When I arrived to pick up the first two men at their senior residence, I parked my four-door sedan as close to the entrance as possible. Even so, getting in an out of the car was not an easy task for my friends. One man, a stroke survivor with weakened arm strength, needed help to buckle his seat belt. I tried to assist each of them without drawing attention to their physical limitations, knowing that humor and kindness go a long way in turning an awkward moment into a point of grace.

We made the twenty-mile trip to our 91-year old friend’s assisted living center. After we picked him up, we drove to a nearby restaurant.  As the host began to seat us, one friend suggested that we take a table nearest the men’s restroom. We all laughed again, affirming his good idea. After menus were passed out, I realized that two of the men were having difficulty reading it because of vision problems. I quickly offered a summarized version and later placed their orders with the wait staff.  I also noticed that just squeezing the ketchup bottle was a chore. 

During our lunch of diverse menu selections (pancakes and eggs, a Philly steak sandwich, a hamburger and fried shrimp), we had lively conversation about how much the world has changed in their lifetime. We talked about things like the toll tag on my car and about golfing vacations to Scotland, RV-ing in Florida and exploring lighthouses of the eastern U.S.

As they talked, I looked carefully at my older friends. They had been young, energetic men with great career success. They had lived interesting lives of faith, adventure and travel.  Now nearing the end of their earthly timelines, I knew they were humbled by their dependence on others.  

As we left the restaurant, one whispered in my ear that he appreciated me taking three old geezers out for lunch.  I laughed, steadying each one as they stepped from doorway to the sidewalk.  I thought about how God sometimes uses the unexpected intersection of lives for his specific purpose.  

Six years ago, I had never met these three older men.  Now they are my dear friends.  They are just a few steps ahead of me in the aging process.  What they are experiencing will likely happen to me, if I live long enough.  Most importantly, they teach me daily about what it is to age well, with grace and faith.