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

Someone is watching April 20, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — missybu @ 7:00 am

This weekend my husband and I were having dinner at a lovely waterfront restaurant in Beaufort, SC. I had just completed a speaking event for a large group of older adults in a nearby town, and we were enjoying the end to a full day of activities. Suddenly a man seated at another table across the aisle from us leaned over to make a comment.

The man, likely in his mid-seventies, apologized for interrupting our dinner. He said that he and his female companion had been watching us for a long while with great interest. Since we seemed to be enjoying conversation with each other, they had surmised that we were not married. A quick glance at our wedding bands would say otherwise, of course. Mostly it seemed that they were intrigued with the idea that we were genuinely enjoying each other’s company. We laughed and assured them that we had been married for many years but that we still enjoyed talking and sharing thoughts with one another. 

The episode got me to thinking about something I had told the group of older adults earlier in the day.  People are always watching and learning from us, both good things and bad, no matter our age.  Every day brings countless opportunities to model the fruit of the Spirit. People are watching to see how we treat the wait staff and thoughtless relatives. They are watching to see how we deal with the frustrations of physical decline and stress. They are watching to see how we live our lives in ordinary moments. 

Earlier that day, an 87 year-old woman had introduced herself at the table where I was signing books. She said, “Until you spoke, I had never really thought about notion that I can still teach others with my life. It seemed my days of influence were already over. From here on, I am going to remember that people really are watching and learning.” Indeed they are.

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Dying, death and holy ground April 13, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — missybu @ 4:26 pm

It’s been an odd but holy day. I had phone calls just a couple of hours apart from two adult women who wanted to share the last earthly moments of their older loved ones’ lives.  The first call was from the niece of a frail, elderly friend who had passed away in her sleep just two weeks ago. The second call was from the daughter of a 95 year-old woman in my community who had struggled with cancer throughout her late years.  Both of the older adult women were my dear friends.

I thought about the phone calls and the fact that the two callers had never met each other.  The two older women who died had never met each other either. Yet there were amazing similarities in the descriptions of their last moments. Each caller talked about the peace.  The holiness of the moment. The serenity of death.   

After I hung up the phone from the last call, I looked over at my To Do list written on the back of an envelope. Somehow in that moment, doing laundry and packing my suitcase for a business trip seemed ridiculously insignificant.  So I just sat there and reflected upon the lives and deaths of my sweet friends. I thought about how God sometimes reminds us to take off our shoes in the middle of the afternoon. Moments such as these are most assuredly holy ground.

 

Young breathe life into old April 5, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — missybu @ 8:02 am

On Easter Sunday afternoon, my husband and I took our 17 month-old grandson to visit an 83 year-old man who was widowed not long ago. The older man had wanted to see our grandson ride an antique riding horse that he had offered our son and daughter-in-law. So we loaded the horse in the trunk of the car and made our way to the older man’s tree-shaded home.

We set the horse in the middle of the room and helped our grandson climb on. It was pure joy to watch the older man eye the toddler as he bounced up and down on the family heirloom. The room began to fill with laughter and hoots-and-hollers. A short time later, we moved outside to the wide porch where another child joined the fun, blowing bubbles and playing with wind-up bunnies.

I kept watching the smiling face of the older man and thought about another time when my grandson was just learning to walk. I had taken him to visit a 95 year-old friend. I’ll never forget how she laughed as he tried to push her walker across the room. He gave her a high-five and crawled onto her lap. Months later she was still talking about that special visit. 

It made me think about how young people bring fresh air to older folks whose lives are vulnerable to becoming stale. Somehow a child’s boundless energy breathes new life into old. (One word of caution: Too many children at one time or children running wild will have an opposite effect!)

As we approach Older Americans Month in May, I encourage parents and grandparents to take children to visit aging relatives and friends, especially those who are homebound. Think about how older adults might interact with the children, perhaps reading them a book or playing an impromptu game.  Building relationships that span the generations will not happen without intentional effort, but in God’s scheme of things, they promise to bring new life.