The Plight Of The Aged

In the earlier years of life, our age is just a number. Whether turning 25 or 33 or 41, the number changes but with little physical impact. But somewhere along the way this gradually changes (I think I’m there!), and the number begins to take on real significance. Believe me, in various ways I feel 61 years old! (OK you 70-somethings, quit laughing.)

Due to factors only He knows, God has so ordained that “the days of our lives are 70 years; and if by reason of strength they are 80 years” (Ps. 90:10). But time and mileage take their toll, and Solomon portrays the plight of the aged: when “the strong men bow down; when the grinders cease because they are few, and those that look through the windows grow dim; when the doors are shut in the streets, and the sound of grinding is low; when one rises up at the sound of a bird, and all the daughters of music are brought low; also when they are afraid of height, and terrors in the way; when the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper is a burden, and desire fails. For man goes to his eternal home, and the mourners go about the streets” (Ecc. 12:3-5).

This poignant passage explains why the 65+ age group accounts for 80 percent of COVID-19 deaths; they are the most physically compromised and therefore less able to fight off the virus. The upside of the modern age is that we are living longer; the downside is that those later years are rife with physical and/or mental debilitation. The elderly are more vulnerable to phone scams, age discrimination, poverty, injuries, disease and neglect. Television ads address the plagues of aging: hearing aids, emergency alert buttons, walk-in bathtubs, scooters, stair lifts, affordable prescriptions, lay-flat recliners, skin treatments, reverse mortgages, updating wills, Depends, etc.

A good measure of a society’s compassion is the attitude toward and treatment of its elderly population. Unfortunately, it seems the present climate favors the young, beautiful, healthy and most endowed with disposable income. In our high-energy world, the older and slower tend to be overlooked or in the way. Most alarming are the healthcare debates that question the value of quality-of-life treatments or life-saving measures for seniors. Have we become so utilitarian that we diminish the worth of a human being who requires more finances and effort to sustain?

We rightly lament the passing of the so-called “Greatest Generation,” the men and women who fought against fascist evil in World War II. With such generational shifts comes the loss of experience and wisdom, which are the trade-off for physical decline. What is lost in robustness is gained in prudence and insight, and you can’t put a price tag on that or measure it in corporate profit.

When those of us who are older mark a birthday, we often quip, “it beats the ‘alternative.’” But we all know the alternative is coming. Solomon adds: “Remember your Creator before the silver cord is loosed, or the golden bowl is broken, or the pitcher shattered at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the well. Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it” (Ecc. 12:6-7). With a Godward orientation, the discomforts of aging will be offset by the hope of going home to our Father, Himself the “Ancient of Days” (Dan. 7:9).