This story first appeared in the April 2018 edition of The Hilltop.
I’ve been thinking about old people a lot lately. My senior research paper was about malnutrition and dehydration in nursing homes, and I have spent hours poring over stories about the abuses nursing home residents face. They are countless. It is exhausting, frustrating and disheartening.
It isn’t trendy to talk about old people. People would rather talk about hot-button political issues like immigration, gun control or human trafficking. People get uncomfortable when we talk about how poorly the elderly are treated in our country. They don’t want to admit it.
Society speaks often of the younger generations as the world-changers, the justice warriors, the missionaries, the pastors, the evangelists and the entrepreneurs, and it relegates the role of the elderly to a recliner in the living room, baking cookies and rapidly dying.
The saddest part about our negligent attitude toward the elderly is that we do not always treat them as valuable people who can still be used powerfully by God. From their recliners. From their homes. From their stories.
But God does not see elderly people the same way we do. In fact, He consistently uses older people to start His work and change the course of history.
Abraham and Sarah are two of the most obvious examples. Abraham was called to leave his homeland when he was 75 years old; he entered into a covenant with God, and his name was changed at 99; Sarah was 90 when God promised her a son. Even though Abraham lived a lot longer than we do today, 75 years is a long time to wait for God’s calling.
Genesis 25:7-8 tells us, “These are the days of the years of Abraham’s life: 175 years. Abraham breathed his last and died at a good old age, an old man full of years, and was gathered to his people.”
God called Abraham later in his life and continued to work through him and Sarah until their deaths.
But Abraham is not the only example.
Moses was 80 years old when God spoke to him at the burning bush; Aaron was 83 when he went before Pharaoh; Elizabeth and Zechariah were “advanced in years” when they had John the Baptist; the prophetess Anna was over 84 years old when she finally saw Jesus; John was near the end of his life when he wrote Revelation.
It’s true that we as the young people have the potential to be world-changers. We know the influence a change in thinking can have on society. We need to prioritize changing the way our elderly are viewed in our world. We need to listen to their wisdom, share the gospel with those who do not believe, cherish their advice and invest in their potential.
The elderly are also the world-changers, the justice warriors, the missionaries, the pastors, the evangelists and the entrepreneurs. They are worth our time.