Post 8 of 11 in a series on the 10 Principles of Older Adult Ministry (banner image by Raul Petrie from Unsplash)
“These are key opportunities for fostering spiritual exploration, inviting growth, empowering resilience, developing coping strategies, providing special care, connecting to a small group with similar changes or needs.” (Joyce MacKichan Walker-Principle 7)
Some of Rev. Joyce MacKichan Walker’s earlier principles highlight the wide variations that can be found within older adults (e.g. understandings of Christian faith, and religious-spiritual identities and needs). A person’s condition, for their age is also subject to wide variation; we all know people who we regard as young for their age while others are deemed “old” for their age. While few, if any, of us like to think about or discuss growing older, the silver lining is that it is arguably the one and only thing that unites us as humans, irrespective of color, race, creed, geography etc. So, maybe it is a worthwhile subject to not only embrace but also talk about with our fellow humans. After all, we quickly find that we have a lot in common! If we think in a counter-intuitive manner about aging, we first start to realize that becoming old is a privilege that not all humans get to experience. Moreover, despite our declining mental and physical abilities, we can start to discover, recognize and use our spirituality so that it becomes our “front and center” sustainer in our “Third Thirty” years.
Inevitably, “events” will happen in our Third Thirty. Perhaps the historic reluctance to think or talk about aging is because we know these events (illness, loss of spouse, falls, etc) will occur at some stage; we just don’t know when, but we know that the clock is ticking. Additionally, our egos are fed by our continuing to conduct activities that we have previously performed (climbing ladders, yard work, driving ….. ). Our spirituality, deep within us, can help us to accept the loss of physical or mental acuities with grace and peace of mind. It can also help us to be at peace with the finality of life and to find the strength and will to prepare everything so that our loved ones have an easier time after our death. By gracefully accepting that our abilities are declining, we can find the means to accept help when offered, or ask for help, rather than our intuitive egos believing that to do so is a sign of weakness. The counter-intuitive result of accepting help or asking for help is that we give to the person assisting us; how wonderful is that?!
Our spirituality can also help us determine when the right time is to let go of doing certain tasks by being mindful and “listening to our body”. We thus become willing to let go of things that we have previously believed to be important, be they material things or past grudges. Uppermost for many of us will be the courage to stop driving when the time comes and feel at peace that life can indeed go on without being at the wheel. We can also pass on legacies and experiences either by writing them down as a “life review” exercise or by creating precious memories with loved ones by carving out time, one-on-one, with them and story-telling. All these things take mindfulness and conscious acceptance of the stage of life that we are in.
The reality is that many more transitions will likely occur in our Third Thirty than happened in our second thirty. Finding and using our spirituality can help us to accept that unwelcome fact, and do the things to prepare as much as we can for the final third of life to be as enjoyable for ourselves and our loved ones as possible.
A Note from the Editor: Chris Pomfret’s curriculum, “The Third Thirty” is available free of charge, by contacting him either through the Hope4CE contact page on this site or through a private message to him directly on Facebook.