Just Watching By Charlie

November 2018

SUPER SENIORS

I don’t mean to brag but I’ve often unintentionally found myself on the early edge of many positive and truly progressive changes in our church especially when giving some new “dog” a name. 

Of course I’m smart enough to realize that just because a new title or term came to my mind early on doesn’t mean the name was my creation.  I was more likely little more an early user, not the coiner, of terms like Family Life Center, repositioning, Midweek Bible School, Post-Easter Youth Camp and pastoral assistant.  Each showed up and was adopted because they made sense in the context of congregational or personal pastoral necessity. Not all new words, mine or that of others lasted long.  Using “God’s Bank” to describe a congregational agency for collecting what is now known as “church extension funds” went south fast when we discovered it was illegal to use the word “bank” for anything that is not certified and controlled by the US government.   Eraser, please!

Interesting as all that may be it is rear-view mirror stuff, yesterday’s concerns.  Today I’m more concerned with a windshield issue that needs nomenclature attention, to wit: “What’s the best clarifying name we can use for the eruption of post-70 men and women flooding our world?”  If we are concerned with and willing to serve that mushrooming age group increasingly more women than men what shall we call it?

After fussing with that question for some time I am increasingly of the mind that they be called Super Seniors.  In adopting the term for myself I concluded that both words require serious consideration.  I found that the term has a generational feel suggesting both a remembrance of yesterday and a thoughtful evaluation of tomorrow both accenting life value and life circumstance.  Both of which are true.

Today’s Super Seniors are at an exceptional life moment rampant with potential.  Since I am determined as a near nonagenarian to keep banging away at the term Super Senior let me open my understanding of this critical life concern in this Just Watching with the negative: what-it-does-not-mean.

Super Senior does not insinuate in any sense a superiority of this life moment or of those who are living it.  Super Seniors are not qualitatively better than anyone – or anything.  They just are.  Those of us who are in our 80s, 90s or beyond do not have a physical, emotional, or existential leg up on any other  life moment as we are so rudely reminded each morning by our daily ration of aches, pains, awesome challenges and limitations.  How could we pose ourselves as better-than any of the millions of those younger than we are, even if but by a decade or two?  They surround us every day and could easily leave us in their dust in most life encounters.  However, be of good cheer.  There are some amazing up-sides to the Super Senior life that I’ll zero in on a little later.

But back on topic, Scripture has a delightful way of talking about the world of Super Seniors.  As an example read Psalm 90, verse 10 in particular.  Massage those words for their fullest meaning.  As you do so, think about the Psalmist’s take on the Super Senior years that such a comparative few have experienced since the dawn of history without reaching the remarkable stage in life that has been reserved for so many today.  The ages of those who lived before Noah aside it was not long after his watery years that life expectancy steadily settled to Psalm 90’s 60 or 70 years, and later in the Middle Ages less than that.

So it was that when the Prussian leader Otto Bismarck showed up in the 1880s suggesting that people retire from the work force with a governmental pension at 70 years of age – which just happen to also be the average life expectancy in his country at that time.  So, since most didn’t live long enough, his plan was more a PR artifice than a funded retirement.

Actually, average life expectancy didn’t increase by much from Bismarck’s day to when the Social Security Act was passed by congress under FDR in the 1930s.  While the promised monthly checks weren’t very large there weren’t many in the 1930s who qualified.  But then came WWII after which for many reasons life expectancy at birth in the USA began to grow until it reached the 70.5 years of age today.  Now don’t nod off on me.  Pay attention to the caveat, “…at birth”.  Audie, and millions of other Super Seniors in our country shot past that “at birth” date years ago.  We are on the edge of our ninth decade, our 90s, and in our lifetime have even picked up a projected additional life expectancy of over four more years.  And so have millions more.  With every new day our “D-day” is steadily moving further into the future.  A past morning TV program each day featured the name of people who had a 100th birthday.  They stopped that.  There were too many centenarians. 

Even cartoonists realized what has been happening over the past 50 years.  In one panel Peanuts and Snoopy are sitting side-by-side at the end of a pier peering into the sunset — or maybe a sunrise. 

Peanuts says, “Someday we will all die, Snoopy.” 

Snoopy answers, “True, but on all other days we will not.” 

Perceptive Super Seniors of today know that while physical death is certain for all it is not necessarily imminent.   We know we’ve got a lot of living to do before Elijah’s chariot is scheduled for us.  Audie and I still attend lectures on personal growth concerns, make ready our flowers for next Spring, eat healthy food to keep us strong for tomorrow, add to our savings account as we can and make our plans for next year’s family events.  There’s not many to help us with our tomorrows since Super Seniors are by the very nature of things pioneers.  Based on their personal experiences, who can show us how to live the Super Senior years to their utmost?   Nevertheless here we are facing our tomorrow while trying to figure out what, “For me to live is Christ,” means in 2018 and beyond.

Two things for sure:  

  1. Audie and I need to make exploring our Super Senior world a life priority;
  2. The church needs to pay much closer attention to the Super Senior world and to those in her ranks who are active in it.

Happy last birthday, all you guys, and the year(s) that lie between now and then –

Charlie

PS  I didn’t scare you did I?  If I did I won’t apologize.  It’s like Harry Truman’s come-back when people in a crowd would shout out, “Give ‘em hell, Harry!”   He’d answer, “I don’t give them hell – I just tell the truth and they think it’s hell.”