Imagine living as an elderly person for a day. What would life be like? How would you be treated? That is exactly what 26-year-old Patty Moore endeavored to find out. She decided to conduct an empathy experiment and dressed up like an 80-year-old elderly woman to see what life was like for her. She conducted this experiment multiple times between 1979 and 1982, donning a full disguise.
“She put on makeup so she looked old and wrinkly,” wrote Roman Krznaric on his blog, “wore glasses that blurred her vision, clipped on a brace and wrapped bandages around her torso so she was hunched over, plugged up her ears so she couldn’t hear well, and put on awkward, uneven shoes so she was forced to walk with a stick.”
She visited over a hundred U.S. cities under this disguise. She was not treated well at all, and was even robbed, beaten and left for dead by a gang of youths in one city. Patty confirmed that life was not easy as an elderly person. In fact, it was very hard.
Did you know that roughly 1 out of every 3 members in God’s Church is over the age of 65? That is one third of the Church! The elderly are the backbone of this Church. They have decades of experience in God’s Church and out. They have been running this race for a long time and are nearing the finish line.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 states, “Blessed [be] God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all encouragement; Who encourages us in all our affliction, trouble, that we may be able to encourage them which are in any worn way or path, by the encouragement wherewith we ourselves are encouraged of God” (Darby translation).
God expects us to become encouragers! We are young and have the energy and health to do it! The seniors would love that youthful energy again. As they near the finish line in their race they need us to cheer them on.
So often when we try to give to them and encourage them, they end up giving us twice as much back. The Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy saying “Rebuke not an elder, but intreat [encourage] him as a father …” (1 Timothy 5:1). Elder can mean forefathers, advanced in life or seniors.
Entreat can mean to exhort, comfort, encourage or strengthen. Something as simple as talking with the elderly can be a very important way of encouraging them. God expects us to help out in that area. Paul is telling us that we need to look to the elderly as we would our own fathers and mothers.
Did you know that roughly one out of every three members in God’s Church is over the age of 65? That is one third of the Church! The elderly are the backbone of this Church. And as we talk with them, we will see that they provide us with great wisdom through their vast experiences. We can gain so much wisdom and counsel from them.
In a Christian Leadership lecture at Herbert W. Armstrong College, Joel Hilliker called the elderly “living, walking history.” Think of all of the valuable lessons that you have learned from your grandparents or from a senior citizen. It is a privilege that we get to spend time with them.
As Patty Moore learned, this world treats the elderly quite differently. How should we treat them?
James 1:27 states, “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction …” God calls that pure religion!Visit is defined as “to look upon or after; examine; in order to see how he is; to visit; to go see the poor and afflicted” (Strong’s Concordance)
We must be spending time with and talking with the widows and the elderly. If we do it God’s way, we will all benefit greatly from sharing ourselves with the elderly. When we visit or serve elderly then we are visiting and serving Christ himself (Matthew 25:35-40). God plans on helping the elderly through each one of us.
Here are some tips to help in encouraging the elderly:
- Talk to the elderly! Whether it be on the phone or face to face.
- Make it a real goal to talk to at least one senior each Sabbath.
- Bring a friend or a parent with you to make help you overcome your nerves.
- Listen to what they have to say; let them tell you about their experiences.
- Tell them about you. They want to hear how you are doing, how school is going, etc.
- Write them a letter or card of encouragement
- Take them out on a special outing. It could be to a coffee shop, the park or a simple walk.
In an article entitled: What Is Your Child’s Attitude Really Like?, Mr. Gerald Flurry wrote, “Our Western society has deteriorated to such a dreadful state that our elderly are pushed aside, shamefully treated and ignored by young people. This should not be so. This world idolizes youth when it should be greatly esteeming the elderly! If our children are taught to respect the elderly, the elderly can share much wisdom and advice with them.”
It is up to us now and in the future to change the way our elderly are treated. As Patty Moore learned, they deserve honor, respect and most of all encouragement!