THE SURPRISING JOY OF OLD AGE – REALLY?
A recent article in Time magazine (September 17, 2018, Jeffrey Kluger, author) takes a refreshing look at aging and happiness. Good for Jeffrey! It’s a creative and affirming article which re-enforces what many of us have been saying around the theme “Celebrating God’s gift of Aging!”
It reports on a 2006 study of a group of 30 year olds and a group of 70 year olds who were asked which of the two groups was likely to be happier. Both of them chose the 30 year olds. However, when those two groups were asked about their own happiness level, guess what, the 70 year olds came out on top! Other experts on aging have long been reporting that old age is often reported as a time defined, “not by sorrow, dread, and regret, but rather by peace, gratitude, and fulfillment.”
Another interesting tidbit shared is that, perhaps surprising as well, is that the middle-ager tends to be the most miserable, as compared to children and older adults. Life satisfaction tends to follow a U-shaped course, with the youngsters and the oldsters being content, celebrative, and satisfied. This is reported in the book, “The Happiness Curve”, by author Jonathan Rauch. (May, 2018).
What might these statistics and findings say as to how congregations are “treating” older adult ministries? Might these findings be a strong indication that we older adults need to spend more time with the youngsters in order to continue to train and model a more positive and celebrative ministry style of living? Might we oldsters consider how we can model and rub ministry shoulders with our own kids and other middle-aged people to help develop a more positive view of living for and with them? Perhaps we older folks need to be more intentional about changing our lifestyle pace from being “do-ers” to being “be-ers” ; that is, to share our gifts of listening, modeling, coaching, and encourAGING from the sidelines in order for the youngest and the middle agers to learn and develop positive attitudes towards and with each other. Now that could be both challenging and rewarding as we oldsters share the satisfaction we have developed by celebrating and serving others in the Lord!
A final quote from the article: “Yes, death is nonnegotiable…something that can only be delayed, never avoided. It’s a mercy, then, that when we do reach the end, so many of us arrive there smarter, calmer, and even smiling!” And as we as God’s people move on to our heavenly home, we rest assured that the Lord has used us to serve and to celebrate with the younger, the middle, and certainly with our peers. May we all keep celebrating the joy of aging, in the Lord, whatever age we are!