In the parable of the lost coin, the woman who had ten silver coins lost one and did everything she could to find it. She swept the floor. She lit all the lamps in her home in hopes of seeing the coin sparkle in the light. She diligently searched until, finally, the coin was found. She broke out in jubilation, for what was lost was now found.
There are times in life when you lose or misplace things… keys, important insurance papers, socks, a favorite book and more. But after an intense search, you may find the lost items once again. The loss is momentary.
But what do you do when you arrive at a point in life where there is more loss than anything else and it no longer deals with precious items? What do you do when you arrive at a point where it seems like the things your desire and the people you love are long gone? When it seems like the joyous celebrations are few and far between?
That is the exact place many of the frail elderly in our society are at right now. The frail elderly typically are in their mid 80s, a point in life where all they once had is no longer just so and they experience loss as commonplace.
Many have lost a spouse, close friends and siblings by this point. They may have lost their mobility or independence due to poor eyesight, hearing, lung capacity or health issues.
“Arthritis is the number one chronic condition among older adults. That is not going to take their life, but it is something that can be painful, and it’s something that people have to live with,” said Amy Hanson, a gerontologist and professor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, in a recent Fellowship Hall podcast.
At other times, they deal with aggressive memory loss and brain function that comes through diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Other losses include financial stability, hobbies and community involvement. All of these losses bring significant change to the lives of the elderly.
“Our social world shrinks in those later years. Friends die. Our kids may move out of the community maybe where we have lived and so there is a real change in relationships,” Amy said.
In Texas, more than 1.1 million Texans are age 75 or older and deal with many of these experiences. There is a portion of this group that is active and is comfortable with living independently, but some know the reality of loss.
“Probably one of the biggest of those losses you hear about and a fear when I ask the older old, one of their biggest fears about aging, they will say, ‘Losing my independence, not being able to take care of myself anymore. Not having purpose,’” Amy said.
Loss of independence comes in many forms, Amy said. Loss of driving can limit ones ability to go to church or participate in activities that once brought enjoyment and comfort.
When this happens, the elderly can start to feel forgotten, to feel like they are hidden away, shut away from society. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
“One of the good things that can come from [the loss that takes place], from people who embrace that, is God wants us to need Him, to depend on Him. And at this season in life, all those other things in life that we have leaned on or we have used are kind of stripped away, and that can be a good place to be in our relationship with God,” Amy said.
But in addition to the seniors embracing the grace and provision of God in this time, there are many practical ways that Christ followers can seek out the elderly in their communities and find ways to make them know they are found and not forgotten.
Through the next blogs coming later this week, keep reading to learn how a few churches are being creative in the ways they are meeting the needs of the elderly in their communities and practically showing that God loves them.
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