“CLIMATE CHANGE” IS AN AH-HA MOMENT!
It is time for a “climate change” in our churches and communities! The term “climate change” is defined as a “change in global or regional climate patterns, attributed directly or indirectly to human activity, altering the composition of the global atmosphere.”
People of God, young and old, we are facing a major issue of “climate change” in today’s society, and in this article we are not talking about weather patterns or what we need to add to or take out of our atmosphere. Instead we are talking about a change in “climate” of how we depict, relate, and minister with and to older adults. Our culture continues to be in denial about the process and blessings of aging. We continue to see “old” as negative and “young” as positive. We continue to minister with young people through an “asset-based” approach and do ministry with older adults in a “deficit-based” manner. We affirm the positive in young people by training, equipping and teaching as we should, yet, at the same time, we focus more on older adults through their deficiencies, needs, and waning physical and mental abilities.
Look at the numbers again: 10,000 people in the U.S. turn 65 today. We are all getting older. More of us are getting older. More of us are getting older, longer. That is why I love to point out that the Lord must really like older people – because He sure is making more of us!
Our “climate” towards aging must change! Now! No need to blame anyone or any system or any of our leaders on this fact. The need is for people of all ages to change the way we treat and talk and act and look at older adults! Starting today! Starting with….myself!
The dream is to see aging as a blessing to celebrate rather than a burden to bear; to no longer see aging as a problem to be fixed or a disease to be cured, but rather as a powerful, rational, life-long process that connects all of us in this community of faith, the Church!
We need to disrupt the negative climate of aging, starting with the very young. No need to diminish the need for children and youth ministries but rather to emphasize the positive in all people, regardless of age. This is sad to say but my sense is that a major part of this problem in changing the “climate” and perception of aging lives in the minds of us older people ourselves. We have been “trained” by our culture to see aging as a negative, to “retire” and not “do” as much as we once did; to get out of the way and let the “younger people” lead; to assume that we have lost our value and purpose in life because of physical and mental limitations that come our way. An 80 year old said recently, “I’m having some vision trouble today. I can’t see myself doing anything”! This is the type of “climate” that needs to be changed, in people of all ages!
I love the Japanese saying, “The setting sun is no less beautiful than the rising sun!” People of all ages are loved, forgiven, and valued as God’s people, in Christ Jesus!
This is an AH-HA Moment for all of us. Now is the time to listen to ourselves and how we talk to, treat, and describe older adults. Now is the time to spend more time with those younger than us as well as older. Now is the time for older adults to “Live Out Loud!” by telling others about their hopes and joys as well as their aches and pains! Now is the time to stop denying the fact that aging is a gift and begin to celebrate the fact that aging is a blessing, for people of all ages. Remember, aging is the only way to live!
Let’s get serious about “Climate Change” as we challenge one another to change the way we look at each other and change the climate of our relationships, starting now! In this 500th Reformation year, let’s continue to “Reform-Aging”, one person at a time, beginning with ourselves!
Celebrate this AH-HA Moment right now, as we encourAGE each other to change the climate of aging that surrounds us!
Dr. Rich Bimler
Ambassador of Health, Hope, and Aging – AH-HA!