Seasoned Saint, Prime-timer, Honored Citizen--these are a few of the euphemisms used to make aging sound more palatable. We all know what they mean--they are just words for growing old--or are they?
Nowadays, many live to age 100 or even older. Celebrations of anniversaries don't stop with 50 years. There are couples who have been married 60, 65, 70, and more years. Since the retirement age is still in the 60s, this gives people a long time to "be old."
Several years ago, my husband and I moved to a 55+ community. I feared it might be terribly depressing being around all those "old people." However, I have been astounded at so many wonderful people of our town who are living vital, fruitful lives. The community boasts three pools, a golf course, painting classes, a woodworking shop, a library, social events, and many other activities to keep seniors in touch with others.
Instead of being depressed, I marvel at the activity and the friendliness of the residents. Many who can hardly walk are out there every day, rain or shine. It's fun to stop and chat with neighbors walking their dogs or enjoying their favorite activity. The general atmosphere is one of peace and harmony.
That doesn't mean there aren't problems. Wherever there are people, there will be problems. However, most who live here have learned how to get along with one another by now. They are wells and fountains of knowledge, experience, and wisdom.
For a while, I wrote personal profiles of some of our residents for our local newspaper. The results blessed the interviewee, the reader, and especially me.
There are constant opportunities for volunteers. My mother tutors a Japanese lady who needs to learn English. She also does many other volunteer jobs. It keeps her feeling vital and young.
Younger generations can learn so much when they spend time with their older relatives and listen beyond the litany of aches and pains. Each has much to offer, no matter how old he or she becomes. The experience that was so painful many years ago may now be a huge blessing to others going through similar circumstances. I think of one of the ladies I interviewed. She has lost two husbands, gone through a lot of personal tragedy, yet has risen above it all through her faith in Jesus Christ to be a blessing to others.
The younger ones need these role models to help them through this turbulent world we all live in. They need to know that it's possible to make it and to live full lives, no matter what their circumstances.
Being a grandparent can also be a wonderful opportunity to give one's children a broader outlook on life. On Memorial Day, a few years ago, I watched a family of several generations decorate the graves of their ancestors. The grandparents led them around to each grave where they stopped and talked a bit. The older ones were probably telling the family history, giving the children a sense of their own heritages. The youngsters were solemn and reverent and I could tell it meant a lot to them. What a treasure.
As aging people, we need to remember that ripe fruit spoils when not used as intended, but our ripened and fruitful lives can bring blessing to others.