Don’t Discount the Value of Our Seniors!

U. S. society and elsewhere dumps us on the trash heap, beginning as early as age 41. By the time we’re 65, we’re considered pretty worthless unless we’ve been called to high leadership positions in our church or community, or rarely, in our employment field. Thank goodness God doesn’t see us that way at all!

In the rush to retain the youth in the church (any church), let’s be careful not to ignore our older members or to alienate parents, aunts and uncles, and grandparents.

The attitude toward us seems to be that we’ll all be dead in 5 to 10 years, so let’s just “keep ‘em busy” doing something that will keep us content but not complaining. After all, we don’t need any special attention, right?

We older folks fully recognize that the youth, children, and babies are and will be the future leaders of the church through even more turbulent times than we’ve seen so far. Terrifying times, horrifying times, but we’re not done living yet. We don’t appreciate being patted on the head and told, “We love our silver-haired members! Now go play with your grandkids, do your family history, and (if you’re a Latter-day Saint) attend the temple. And if you’re healthy enough, you can serve a mission wherever the Lord needs you.”

All well and good, but we are a lot more than that:

  • First, in the dysfunctional families of even the church today, not everyone has grandkids, let alone nearby grandkids.
  • Second, we do have other interests that require the use of our intellect and other talents: music, writing, painting, software coding, scuba diving, mountain climbing, camel riding, whatever.
  • Further, just because some of us are widowed, it doesn’t mean our physical needs went away.
  • It doesn’t mean we’re not worth befriending except by other “old people”.

I happen to enjoy talking to a younger brain or two, to keep up with what’s going on in the world, even/especially in the computer arena, and to eventually become a trusted friend. And no, I’m not a cougar on the prowl! That’s a despicable label that should never be applied to any honorable woman!

Of course, it might be pretty amusing for my future fiancé to be caught pricing strollers and diapers on his Android phone, strollers and diapers for me, not for kids!

Age Differences

There are at least several couples in just our congregation where the wife is more than a few years older than her husband. My own mother-in-law was 10 years older than my father-in-law and she came with a 4-year-old kid in tow when they married. She was a difficult mother-in-law at best, as two daughters-in-law discovered the hard way. But Dad worshipped the ground she walked on and no one could utter any criticism of her, without sending Dad into a white-lipped rage ready to explode at any moment.

“Singles” blogs to the contrary, everyone comes with emotional baggage. There is no such thing as a woman or a man who doesn’t have at least a couple of unresolved issues at any age. (That’s unless you’re looking for a cloistered 18-year-old and then you’ll find problems of a different kind.) Deal with whatever issues are out there! You may not be the greatest prize yourself.

Inside, I’m still 17 years-old, embarking on a solo voyage to a New World. Still scared, still courageous, still listening for the directions of the Holy Ghost in my life, the same Spirit that led me here. And still ready to slug anyone who wants to “bring it on!”: cheating contractor, insolent medical office clerk, or general, all-around dumb-ass. My Christian patience has worn thin with all of them.

It’s only the old lady in the mirror who sometimes complains about encroaching arthritis and wrinkles that weren’t there yesterday. It’s annoying what can show up after cataract surgeries!

Suicide Risk

Please do not cast seniors aside. Our various age groups are at extremely high risk for suicide, especially elderly white men. However, the highest rate of suicide has been among 45-64 year-old white men (in 2013). There were 232,000 suicide events among them from 1999 to 2016 but it doesn’t stop there.

Men ages 85 and older now have the highest suicide rate of any group in the country, according to the Suicide Prevention Resource Center. But any number is too high! Older people are depressed more often than not. They are usually in constant pain that is often severe and for which Medicare will not provide adequate treatment. Medicare is very good about asking nosy questions every time you go to a doctor but appears to be only gathering statistics, since realistic solutions are seldom offered.

I would add that no one commits suicide. Suicide is a severe form of depression whose warning signs go unnoticed and can take control of someone’s outlook on life. There are wonderful, tender videos at suicide.lds.org to help us all understand that suicide is NOT an unforgivable sin and how to help friends and relatives of victims recover, along with those who may have survived the attempt. These videos are also available on YouTube.

Older church members, and seniors generally, do not live near relatives, who may or may not care about them, anyway. We don’t fit the longtime demographic for parents and children. We need greater understanding, less criticism, and to be included in community events, church programs, and cultural presentations, not just horseshoes, gambling trips, and Scrabble®.

Although we need more peace and quiet than our younger selves could tolerate, we don’t need to be warehoused or put out to pasture.

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