A Standing Ovation for the Older and Wiser

With Words of Wisdom from the Elder Generations

by Libby Slaughter on

Articles 7 min read
Job 12:12 Leviticus 19:32

“Nothing has prepared me for this stage of life,” she said. It’s the stage where your friends begin to die, everyone is fighting some ailment and memories are slipping. My mom is in her late 70s and I’ve heard her say time and again, “Growing old is not for the faint of heart.” After living with her for 7 years and spending time with her friends, I’ve adopted this saying as my own.

It occurred to me recently that everyone is living life for the very first time and no one has “arrived.” Every stage is new. And the late-life stage is a tough one with a lot of uninvited difficulties, whether financial, physical, or social and emotional. It seems a bit unfair that after putting in a life’s work and paying your dues, so to speak, your body fails you, life gets increasingly difficult, and you often become more isolated than in your younger years. As one older couple said in a recent Humans of New York Instagram post, “We’ve been dealing with invisibility. We started realizing we’re kind of fading… Everybody needs a welcome from somebody else so that they can feel useful.” 

It’s a sort of a catch-22 that just when you have the most expertise and experience to share in this life, you get pulled out of the game by old age (illness, aching joints, inability to drive, etc.) and miss opportunities to speak into our culture. I realize there are some outliers who age really well and they’re still crushing it out there with the masses. Bravo! But for many, possibly most, that isn’t the case.

Here are a couple of things the Bible says regarding our elders:

Wisdom is found among the aged and long life brings understanding. (Job 12:12)

“Stand up in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the LORD.” (Leviticus 19:32)

Our older generation has endured much with grace and a brave face and they deserve our respect and attention. Their wealth of knowledge has been gained through risk, failures, successes, sweat and tears. Wouldn’t you rather learn from someone else’s tears than your own? I realize it’s rare, but I’d like a shot at it at least!

When it comes to wisdom, our aged friends have us beat by far. Unfortunately in our pre-order pickup culture, we don’t take the time to listen to all that wisdom. Well, pull up a chair because I collected it for you! I asked a room of about 50 adults, 60-90 years old, to write down their best piece of advice for the younger generations and this is what they said:

  • Who you will become starts now.
  • Forgiveness! Never harbor ill feelings.
  • Volunteer at something, large or small. In blessing others, the Lord double-blesses you.
  • Buy a Roth IRA every year. You will be glad you did when you hit 70 years old.
  • It’s not as much what you do – it is what you leave behind.
  • Get a good 7-8 hours of sleep a night. (Our body heals when we sleep.)
  • Each year time goes by faster. Take time today to spend with someone you love. Undistracted time. Explore nature. Talk to one another face to face.
  • Every person is valuable. God will never leave you or forsake you. We serve a good God!
  • Don’t compare yourself to anyone else. You are unique, original and loved by God. You can do all things through Christ who gives you strength. Philippians 4:13
  • Always pray.
  • Use your God-given gifts wisely. Be a good steward.
  • Wake up every morning with a happy heart and let God’s love shine through everything you say and do.
  • Make healthy food choices and exercise every day.
  • Be giving to your church and family, friends and people you see in need. Share God’s provision.
  • Be kind, even to people who are different from you.
  • Avoid fights. Learn as much as you can about resolving conflict and use it.
  • Believe in Jesus even if your family doesn’t.
  • Don’t compare yourself with anyone but Jesus.
  • Show more gratitude and less entitlement.
  • God is always there. He will not abandon you. Remember, it is in HIS time, not yours.
  • Every good thing you have or have ever done is a gift from Jesus.
  • Keep the main thing the main thing–Christ first!
  • Let others see Jesus in your life every day.
  • Where and how you lived as a child does NOT define you. God defines you and He says you are loved.
  • Love the unloveable.
  • Be generous and lean on Jesus to provide for your generosity.
  • Value your health! Grow your faith! Grow your finances! Don’t buy things to please others!
  • Know who you are inside because God made you completely different from others and you are so unique like no other. Be a leader for the good.
  • See value in others by looking past the outside “decorations” and really see the person inside. The “decorations” are sometimes a wall to cover the hurt.
  • Give pure love and grace to all you meet. Be a blessing to someone who needs it.
  • Jesus first. Others Second. Yourself Last. (JOY)
  • Money is not the important thing in life.
  • Only things done in the Lord’s name will last.
  • Life happens in a hurry so slow down and live it NOW, not tomorrow. Trust God for tomorrow.
  • Time with Jesus is never wasted.
  • Failure and trials come to everyone, but so do successes. Lean into Jesus.
  • Plan for your elder years both financially and emotionally.

Find an older person in your community and ask them to coffee. Take them for lunch and pick their brain on life lessons or situations where you could use a little wisdom. I’m sure they would appreciate the invitation and would be more than happy to come alongside you.

And to my older friends, I say press on and keep your hope because the Bible tells us: “Though outwardly we are wearing out, inwardly we are renewed day by day. Our suffering is light and temporary and is producing for us an eternal glory that is greater than anything we can imagine.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18, GW) 

Libby's mom.jpg

The author's mom with some friends

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About the Author

Libby Slaughter is Communications Director at Central Bible Church.