Growing Older Gracefully

That’s quick to read and even sounds good. But what does it mean? How do you envision aging gracefully? It not only describes the natural process of growing older but also defines a time of wisdom, experience, and spiritual maturity. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Yes, that’s the kind of growing old I want to strive for. 

In a somewhat broader sense, I aim to age with dignity so as not to make life difficult for those around me. Instead, others should have a desire to spend time with us. Everyone should sense that in spite of everything we have encountered, we continue to honor our God. 

When does the process of growing old actually begin? 

When is one “officially” old? Or how old do you have to be to start thinking about it? My children referred to an “old man.” When I asked his age, I heard, “around your age.” Still others claim that age is merely a number. One can be chronologically “old” but young inside. Others, however, are still relatively young when it comes to the number but are already quite archaic in their thinking. I’m sure you understand what I mean. You can’t assign a number and say that is the age you become old. Be that as it may, it is beneficial if one prepares mentally for aging and adjusts to upcoming changes. Dealing with aging not only makes life easier for us but also for those who will be helping us. And that’s what this article is about. We want to approach old age prepared so that it will be a blessed and dignified season and, above all, that we thereby glorify our Lord and Savior.  

My wife Doreen and I are always concerned about how best to deal with the course of aging. We want to prepare ourselves for it. Better said, we think about practical ways to best achieve that goal.  We talk about what we want to do, or not do, as the case may be. Especially when we observe older people and don’t condone their actions, these thoughts cross our minds. One should actually make a list and capture these thoughts in bullet points so that we don’t forget our resolutions in the future. But where does one file the sheet of paper? And will you remember where it is when you may need it?

Making a list is not such a far-fetched thought, is it? Since we are forgetful people, it is beneficial to write it down. Will you buy in? Your list may certainly look different than mine, but that’s okay. How do you want to live the last years? Do you want to just let them happen or approach them with planning? Actually, you can’t start soon enough. The way we are now is how we will be in our old age – only much more pronounced. For example, if you don’t find a reason to be thankful today, you won’t suddenly become grateful in old age. It will be difficult to get along with such a person. And whoever is extremely frugal today and constantly looks at his bank statement, this tendency to be thrifty will become more pronounced with aging. Sometimes this scrimping is also called another term. And those who talk a lot fall into the category of “gossipmonger” in old age. Grumblers develop into unpalatable people. But the principle also applies to positive qualities. Wouldn’t we prefer to grow in this direction? After all, those who love will usually love more, those who give thanks will become more grateful, and those who are generous will become more generous. Of course, there are exceptions. 

That’s why we want to think about this and let the Lord shape us so we can calmly approach old age and even then still be “fruitful, fresh, and flourishing” (Psalm 92:14). I have met such people again and again over the course of time. I observed their positive manner, their grateful attitude, and their childlike trust in God. Through their inspiring conversations, and their prayers, they have actually become a great blessing to me. This blessing not only impacts their peers but also future generations. I admire such people. I would also like to belong to this group.  Then what we sing in a song, “brighten the corner where you are,” becomes reality.

Over the past few months, I have sent an email to a number of my friends (age group 50+) asking for their thoughts on this topic. In doing so, I hoped to gain a somewhat more complete and balanced picture.  The responses were not long in coming. I was amazed at the joyfulness of the brothers and sisters to participate in this project, and not just for the sake of the seniors’ article but for personal enrichment as well. One response was, “I might actually be tempted to write a book about it.” Someone else noted, “I thought about it for a long time and decided not to get old. To what extent we have control over ‘looking old’ is up for debate, but we do have control over our attitude.”  

Of course, addressing such a topic requires openness, honesty, and, above all, the willingness to change. The fact is, if you already know and can do everything, you won’t learn anything more. 

No one can say today how we will fare in future or where we will spend our twilight years. All these things are hidden from us. But it’s best to address these issues intentionally, right now.  Whoever wants to grow old gracefully must choose this blessed way today. It’s probably too late to wait until we’re old. Making resolutions, consciously making decisions, and learning to implement them right now is the first step in the right direction. 

As the sun slowly sets on the horizon, it is my endeavor, through my close connection with God, to shape my life in such a way that it blesses others. As he looked back on life, the Apostle Paul penned these fitting words in the following wish: “according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. As I eagerly wait and hope that I will not be put to shame in any way, but that with all joy, as at all other times, so also now, Christ may be highly praised in my body, whether by life or by death. For Christ is my life, and to die is my gain” (Philippians 1:20-21). Where Christ is highly praised (glorified), no matter what, one can speak of grace in growing old.

This column is just the introduction to other articles with practical insight. I invite you to look into this subject and journal your thoughts. This exercise could have a beneficial effect. 

How do you want to spend your twilight years? What legacy do you want to leave for your loved ones? Will we be remembered as “curmudgeons” or, when we come to mind, will it be said we lived blessed, golden years? The decision is ours.

Harry Semenjuk

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