Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died, yet his eyes were not weak nor his strength gone. Deuteronomy 34:7
"Dear Dr. Sala," writes a friend, "Would you have any suggestions to help people who have reached their eighties and feel they have nothing to live for? I admit feeling very useless at times. I am 82, in a wheel chair, and have little energy."
In recent days, there has been a graying of society as more and more of us are living longer and longer; and with the years come new challenges. Frankly, every year I hear from more and more people who are struggling with their existence and their inability to cope with life. I've done two things, thinking about this issue. First, I've asked again, "What does God say in His Word about this issue?" Then, I've talked with a number of seniors who are there and asked them what they have found that is helpful, which I can share with you.
The fact is that the number of men and women reaching into their eighties has increased dramatically in the last two decades. Better medicines, better nourishment, and better health care in general have combined to give a lot of seniors more years. Whereas many would have succumbed to illnesses a few years ago, they now often fight back and have years to enjoy, provided they can learn to enjoy them.
Far sooner than we would like to admit, the years turn into decades and we find ourselves thinking about doing fewer and fewer things for the first time and more and more things for the last time. How do we handle the changes of life?
Synthesizing the comments that some of my older friends have given, may I suggest the following guidelines:
Guideline #1: Come to grips with the fact that you are here by the will of God, not fate or chance. God makes no mistakes and suffers no surprises. Paul said it in Ephesians 1:11 where he wrote, "In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will..."
Guideline #2: Realize that your true value as a person is dependent on your character and not your productivity. One of the flaws of our thinking, especially as we age, is that we are not worth much unless we are producing. This, of course, runs contrary to everything that the Bible stands for. It tells us that you are of value and worth, not because of what you do, but because of what you are. Paintings and fine books only become more valuable with age, and so it is with people.
Guideline #3: Accept your lessening strength with grace. "I greet each day as a gift," says Beatrice Cole, at age 90. She says that the last decade, from age 80 to 90, has been the best gift of her life, though she has been alone most of that time except for the company of her pet poodle.
Guideline #4: Force yourself to get out and mix with people. :After I lost Ethel," says Frank Emery, "I forced myself to get out, to travel, to play golf, to be with people. It was the only way I could beat the loneliness." Sitting at home, refusing to reach out to others, only compounds your loneliness.
Guideline #5: Refuse to accept defeat at the hand of yourself. Loneliness never leaves us where it finds us. We either greet it as a friend and make peace with it, or fight it until we succumb to it and wither and die. As a friend, it can cause us to reach out and make new friendships and enrich our lives, or it can kill us.
Those sunset years can well be our best ones!
Resource reading: Deuteronomy 34:1-12