Lately I’ve been hearing that sixty-five is the new forty. And there’s probably some truth to the observation, as the young-at-heart are staying healthy longer. They’re less likely than their parents to walk with canes and more inclined to keep dancing.
This issue of Kindred Spirit focuses on the aged and aging. It’s not just for them, it’s about them. In “Intergenerational Ministry” a pastor in Seattle challenges the old to mentor, the young to listen, and churches to embrace intergenerational ministry. A professor surveys what the Bible has to say about being old and growing old. A grad with a background in gerontology draws on decades of experience with seniors to help all of us age well spiritually. Long-time Dallas Seminary professors share wisdom gained through decades of living well. And graphic designer Linda Tomczak once again uses her creative gifts, this time to remind us that God cares for us in our old age (back cover).
Seniors are living longer, working longer, and playing longer. They’re also more racially diverse than in the past. And they’re a great untapped resource in our congregations. For more of what we know about them, see the publication Older Americans 2010: Key Indicators of Well-Being.
Their numbers are growing. In the U.S., where most of our graduates minister, three years ago an estimated 39 million people were age 65 and over, accounting for just over 13 percent of the total population. But by 2030, the older population is expected to be twice as large as in 2000.
They are more educated. In 1965, 24 percent of the older population had graduated from high school, and only 5 percent had at least a bachelor’s degree. By 2008, 77 percent were high school graduates or more, and 21 percent had a bachelor’s degree or more. (If you are a senior and you haven’t been to seminary, maybe you should consider further education.)
They are prosperous. Most older people (especially in the West) are enjoying greater prosperity than any previous generation. The proportion of older people in the high-income group has increased, and the number living in poverty has decreased. The share of income from earnings has increased partly because more older people, especially women, continue to work past age 55. Finally, on average, net worth has increased almost 80 percent for older Americans over the past 20 years.
All of this means that within the church we have a pool of mentors and outside we have a great mission field. Those of us coming up behind the aged can learn from them, avoiding their mistakes and drawing on their wisdom. Job 12:12 states, “Wisdom is with aged men, with long life is understanding.” Though the years can help to make us wise, the true source of wisdom for Christ-followers of any age is the fear of the Lord. Paul reminded his protégé, Timothy, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity” (1 Tim. 4:12). Walking in wisdom is the will of the Lord for both the older and younger followers of Christ.