Tackle Misconceptions About Aging

Tackle Misconceptions About Aging

Jim Stinson, Former Consultant on Older Adult Ministries


I attended a symposium entitled “Embracing the Aging Experience.” All the participants were United Methodists engaged in one ministry or another to older adults. There were a great variety of approaches to such ministry. There were both subtle and not so subtle differences surrounding our common work. What struck me, despite the variety, was the common assumption that the aging experience was something to be embraced. A sense that the church needed to be about a ministry that shattered prevailing stereotypes emerged as a common theme. What are some of these misconceptions? 
Aging is something to be avoided, or at least denied for as long as possible.

The truth is a different story! We wouldn’t tell a child not to be a child, for we know it is an important stage of life, as is adolescence, as is middle age. Every stage is important—growth is the reason for all of them. Old age is no different than any other season of life. It is not in and of itself a negative thing. Attitudes and assumptions may make it negative. How we respond to it can make a lie of any assumptions that say otherwise.

All older adults need someone to care for them. Aging is a downward slide leading to ever increasing illness and frailty.

There’s some truth here, but not the whole truth. A large portion of the older adult population contributes countless volunteer hours to a host of good causes. Many take on new pursuits such as painting, music, drama, visiting the sick, and helping their churches. Aging is not only a downward slide; it is also a time of new possibilities, which come with learned wisdom and experience.

Embracing the aging experience, like all of life’s experiences, can be a challenge, but it can also be a time of incredible growth in so many areas. It can be a vital time, for those willing to acknowledge their limitations, while affirming the possibilities still available.

As those engaged in ministry to and with older adults, we do well to help create environments in which our aging members and friends can thrive. And we need to faithfully and empathetically challenge them to live out the promise of our faith.

As Jesus tells his followers in the Gospel of John, “I have come that you may have life and have it more abundantly.”

There are no age limits on Jesus’ promise. It is often a difficult message to deliver—even so it is the Good News, to which we are called to witness!

Feel free to print or share with your congregation. © 2012 Rev. James Stinson