In some places, signs on the public transportation appeal to the passengers to give up their seats for those traveling with small children, those who have health challenges, or those who are older. In a number of locations, those who have reached a designated age are given discounts on products or services which they purchase. Yes, there are some perks reserved for those who are no longer young.
On the other side of the coin is the reality that with age, some changes are not advantages. With the passing of the years, a person’s physical body goes through changes. Such unavoidable changes present challenges. In fact, some who face the twilight years of life do so with this mindset: “I have no pleasure in them” (Ecclesiastes 12:1). What causes such an outlook? The verses which follow appear to employ symbolic language to describe some of the bodily changes which transpire – loss of hearing, loss of strength, and impaired eyesight, to name a few (12:2-5). Of equal significance is the fact that with the passing of time, a person’s mind becomes less clear and memory loss occurs. When older people face physical or mental challenges, they are still human. They still deserve to be treated with human dignity and common courtesy. They did not request to lose their memory or control of bodily functions. It just happens. Surely God’s people can show understanding, sympathy, and compassion to people who are in such situations. The family members of aged people need to step up and help take care of them. The Holy Spirit’s charge is for Christians to “repay their parents” (1 Timothy 5:4).
Those who are no longer young deserve our respect. Under the old covenant, Jehovah instructed the Israelites, “You shall rise before the gray headed and honor the presence of an old man . . .” (Leviticus 19:32). Forty-two youths learned how seriously the Lord looks at making a mockery of those people whom He wants us to respect, as two female bears attacked them after they mocked Elisha (2 Kings 2:23-25). Just because older people may walk slower, have less energy, or take more frequent naps, that does not lower their value in God’s sight. Nor should it cause us to have a reduced respect for them. Even when they may be disagreeable or make inappropriate choices, we need to respect them. The Bible says, “Do not rebuke an older man but exhort him as a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers . . .” (1 Timothy 5:1,2).
Those who have been on the earth for several decades often have a wealth of wisdom to share. Of course, when we are young and think we are extremely intelligent and have the brains to change and conquer the world, well, at that point in our lives, the conversations which we have with older people may bore us. After all, such people are past their prime, so what could they offer to young people who are much more educated? Life’s experiences and passage through the trials of life often make those with white hair a source of sage guidance. I personally have deep regrets that I did not spend more time just listening to my parents talk about life in general and “the good old days.” We are reminded of this instruction from Proverbs 23:22: “Listen to your father who begot you, and do not despise your mother when she is old.”
Those saints of God who are in the later period of their sojourn on earth still have a lot which they can offer to the Kingdom. Yes, there is still work for them to do in the Lord’s service. Moses led Israel out of their bondage in Egypt when he was a mere eighty years old. “Paul the aged” was still working diligently when he was imprisoned in Rome (Philemon 9). He continued fighting the good fight all the way to the end, staying faithful and active until he crossed the finish line of life (2 Timothy 4:7). We need older brothers and sisters in the Lord to keep on showing us a godly example, and the Bible specifically states that older women are to teach and admonish younger ones (Titus 2:2-5).
Our more mature brethren still have a role to play in the body of the Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-27). They can still make positive contributions to God’s work, and we are blessed to have them among us. We thank them and honor them for all that they have done and continue to do (Romans 13:7).
I know, there are times when “old age” seems so far in the future. For most of us, that time will come, and it will arrive long before we really are ready for it. We will become the white-haired members who tell the same stories over and over and cannot hear the numbers when the song leaders announce them.
Let us all make a concentrated effort to understand, respect, and offer assistance to those who are no longer young. It is the right thing to do.
— Roger D. Campbell