We are Worthy, No Matter the Age

We are Worthy, No Matter the Age

Jim Stinson, Former Consultant on Older Adult Ministries


“I got out of the shower, dried myself off, looked in the mirror, decided I looked good for someone over 90 years old, smiled, got dressed, and started my day.” 

How often I am reminded why I love working with older people.

That reminder came again this morning when the above was the answer to, “Good morning, how are you?” There is the embracing of life that so many older adults exhibit. It is so contagious. It made me smile. In fact, it made me think of so many older adults, riddled with so many effects of a long life, so many deficits, so many reasons to think of themselves in self-deprecating terms, who, even so, look in the mirror every day, and like what they see. It also made me think of the many older adults who respond so differently, seeing themselves negatively, and therefore have difficulty embracing life as it is, always longing for life as it was.

A challenge of ministry with and to older adults is being able to see the realities, the deficits, and the ailments that often accompany us as we age, and at the same time witness to our faith inspired call to new life. How to do so is not an easy task. It is often filled with pitfalls. If we are not careful with our words, they may sound like platitudes that ignore the struggles of aging. If we hear and see the struggles more than the possibilities, we may give the impression that there is no possible positive outcome to the situation. So how might such pitfalls be avoided or, at least, minimized? How do we help older adults look in the mirror and smile? 

A clue is found in the observation, “I looked good for someone over 90 years old.” My friend qualified his remarks with the words, for someone over age 90. He knew his age made a difference, but did not let that stop him from seeing someone worthy of another day.

There is something freeing about the truth. We cannot expect to look as good as we might once have looked. Aging does bring wrinkles, change our physical contours, and change our abilities. Ministry to and with anyone of any age is most effective when it acknowledges the realities at hand, when it affirms what is visibly true, but witnesses to the reality that is not visible. Ministry is effective when it empathizes (gets what the person is saying and feeling) rather than sympathizes—feeling sorry for the person reinforces the sense that something is wrong and needs correcting. Because only then is it possible to say, even so! Even so there is something beautiful. Even so there are possibilities. Even so my life has meaning.

In short, remember to empathize, to understand the realities, and even so, to witness to our faith that every day, every age, is a gift to be opened and embraced. Say with actions and words. With my friend say, “I like what I see. I’m not bad for my age. In fact I look pretty good.”

Feel free to print or share with your congregation. © 2015 Rev. James Stinson