I noticed the old man just now as I drove down the street to my office in the church library. He was ambling along, clearly having difficulty walking. My heart went out to him. As I drove past, I tried to estimate his age. “80-something,” I said to myself. Maybe 10 years my senior.
It’s no fun getting old. My dad, who lived into his 96th year, had cut out of a magazine and posted on a door facing his philosophy on the subject: “Growing Old is Not For Sissies.” Art Linkletter wrote a best-selling book by that title.
Growing old is not for everyone either. In fact, it’s a privilege denied to many who were far better people and more deserving than any of us.
We would do well to focus on the privilege of aging instead of the burdens. In fact, here is my list of the top ten reasons I love being a senior adult and cannot wait to delve deeper into seniorhood!
There’s no order, just as they occurred to me.
1. You get to see your kids grow up and raise families and begin to mature.
I think of the men and women whose funerals I have held over nearly five decades in the ministry, people whose hearts broke when they realized they would not have the privilege of walking a daughter down the aisle or ever seeing their grandchildren.
Recently, when a minister friend went to Heaven unexpectedly (for us; not for the Heavenly Father, thankfully!), the first words out of his teenage daughter’s mouth when she greeted her best friends were: “He’ll not be able to walk me down the aisle.” She was looking into the distant future, and her heart was breaking.
Me, I’m 71 years old. I’ve seen my three children reach their 40s and one of them is actually beginning to turn gray-headed. They have presented me with 8 grandchildren, each one of whom is my delight.
I’m grateful for the privilege and do not take it for granted.
2. Most seniors don’t have to go to work.
Now, I’m aware that the battered economy of the past few years has played havoc with the retirement incomes of a lot of seniors and some have had to return to the office or marketplace. But thankfully, most have not.
I recall the first autumn after I graduated from college. For 16 years, every August or September, school had been a fixture for me. We hardly thought about it; just got our books and went to class. Now, suddenly, I was out of school. What a glorious feeling that was. (I was, however, to return in two years and begin my seminary education, but that did not diminish my elation the first autumn I had no classes to attend.)
That’s how most seniors feel upon retirement. Now, we all know some whose lives were all about their jobs and who feel lost without the office waiting for them. That’s pretty sad, and completely unnecessary. The person who loves to read, loves to exercise and work and play and socialize and minister–that person will delight in having no job that demands his/her daylight hours.
I love being unemployed.
3. Seniors get to take naps.
People joke about this, but it’s no joke. Many a time, I walk in the house and tell my wife, “I’ll see you in an hour. Nap time.” She smiles and goes back to whatever she was doing.
I teased the checker at Wal-Mart yesterday. “I’ve been on my feet all day,” she told the customer in front of me. I said, “And you would love a nap?” She smiled, “I would LOVE a nap.” I said, “Okay, tell you what. I’m going to go home and take a nap in your honor.” The fellow behind me laughed, “That is so generous of you.”
Hey, helping people out is one of the delights of seniorhood.
4. You have time to read or putter or work on your hobby.
How many people do you know who complain that there are so many books they want to read but don’t have the time? Well, as a retiree, you do.
The joke among seniors is that we fill our lives with so much activity, we don’t know how we ever found time to hold a job. The truth is most of us do fill our lives, but it’s with activities of our own choosing.
Many weeks, I’ll read two or three books. And I always have several started. The trunk of my car holds several books I’m working on. There is a stack beside my bed.
I love to read.
5. You have time to volunteer.
My church uses volunteers on the front desk to answer the phone and greet visitors. Each person–usually a woman–has one day a week, normally from 10 am to 2 pm or so.
Global Maritime Ministries, our outreach to port workers and seafarers, is always crying for men and women to volunteer to keep the center open. All they have to do is be on site, serving coffee, answering questions, greeting visitors.
One of the best surprises Global Maritime has had in a long while is an Austrian woman whose first name is Else, pronounced “Elsie.” Recently, she received her masters degree from our New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and volunteered to work at the port ministry center upriver in Reserve, La. In our board meeting this week, she gave a testimony of how the Lord led her here and the work He is doing through her at the center. Oh, did I say she’s 66 years old and the pay she receives from GMM is a pittance, just enough to help with some expenses.
It’s great being a senior.
6. The government sends you money every month.
Now, I don’t know if this is common knowledge or not, so you may want to keep this to yourself. But for retirees, each month the federal government sends us money. I’m not kidding.
You’ll call your bank to check your balance and along about the end of the month, you’ve run out. Next day, you call again and find the government has replenished the account.
Hey, is this a great arrangement or what?
Makes me wish I’d retired ages ago.
7. The government also helps pay the medical bills of seniors.
Good thing, too, because medical bills for seniors have a way of mounting up.
I think they call it Medicare or something. Sure is nice of them to do this for us.
8. The coffee is cheap in a lot of places.
“I’ll have the senior coffee,” you say and the counter clerk knows what you mean. You get the same coffee as anyone else, but pay about half what they do. Oh, and some places–even fast food restaurants–have senior discounts.
I recommend paying the smallest amount you can for things. Seniors do that a lot.
9. You have the perfect excuse for odd behavior or unorthodox dress.
You can tell people what you think of what they just did, and whereas if you were half the age they might have wanted to fight you, now they just walk away saying, “He’s old.”
You can wear mismatched shirts and pants and socks and people just say, “He’s old.”
Is this a great arrangement or what?
10. You have a tremendous historical perspective.
You see the storms erupting in various places and the weather patterns that are causing alarm, and you do not panic. You have seen worse. If you are a veteran senior (code word for “really old”), you will remember the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. And you know about the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake, even though you didn’t experience it personally. And the 1927 Mississippi River floods that were worse than their counterpart in 2011.
You remember Watergate and Vietnam. And you know about World War II. Oh my, do you ever.
I recall uncles returning from the war wearing their uniforms. I wore a little army uniform myself when I was five. That was 1945, the year the war ended.
In that war, we’re told something like 100 million people were killed. So, when someone asks if Hurricane Katrina or this year’s tornadoes were omens of the end of the world, I categorically answer, “Not hardly.” Usually I resist a history lesson–that’s hard for a senior to do–but what I think is, “Because it happens here and to us, we think it has to be the worst ever. But what about the floods of Pakistan and Bangladesh which killed hundreds of thousands? Why didn’t you think the same thing then?”
Historical perspective is a great sedative.
11. (Oh? Did I say I was going to give 10? Well, seniors like to have a little extra, something thrown in for good measure.) Best of all, we’re closer to Heaven than we’ve ever been before.
Franklin Graham tells of a conversation between his precious parents a couple of years before Mrs. Graham’s homegoing. Billy: “I feel terrible. I feel like I’m going to die.” Ruth: “Oh, that must feel wonderful.”
Franklin laughed and said, “Dad will get no sympathy from mother.”
At this moment, my mother is approaching her 95th birthday (July 14). The love of her life, her only boyfriend, the man she was married to for nearly 74 years old–Carl J. McKeever–went to Heaven in November of 2007 at the age of 95+. The other day mom said, “I miss Pop.” Ever the logical one, I tried to console her with, “Well, mom, you’ll be seeing him before long.” When she didn’t say anything, I said, “But it doesn’t feel like it, does it?” She said, “No, it doesn’t.”
But it’s true. I’m nearer Heaven than I have ever been in my life. And so are you, if you are among the redeemed by the precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. We have the solid and oft-repeated promise of Scripture: “We shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
Whenever I get a chance to address seniors, I make it a point not to assume because they are elderly and in church that they are saved and heaven-bound. So, we go over the way of salvation one more time–repent of your sins and ask Jesus Christ into your life as your Lord and Savior–and extend the invitation.
There are few greater joys to a pastor than seeing an elderly man or woman openly confess Jesus Christ as Savior for the first time in their lives.
Some might say they should have done this earlier and to not have wasted those earlier years. Maybe so, but that’s beside the point.
As any ballplayer can tell you, what matters most in the game is how you finish. Finish a winner and nothing else matters.
Oh, I had toyed with the idea of finishing this article with the ten worst things about being a senior. But I’m not, for two reasons. One, the article is plenty long without it. And two…
I can’t think of a downside to being a senior. It’s all good.