Today is the “International Day of Older Persons.”
According to the National Holiday Calendar, the United Nations began in 1948, the year I was born, “seeking the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by older persons.”
In 1982 the U.N. adopted the “World Assembly on Aging” to “highlight the situation of older people.” Then in 1990, the U.N. issued a proclamation that October 1st would be designed as the “International Day of Older Persons.”
The U.N. didn’t define “older persons,” so I won’t either. Someone quipped that an old person is 15 years older than you are. Yet, we all know that as we age, at some point, our bodies, and often times our minds, are not what they were in our youth.
But “older persons” don’t have to be put on the shelf or discarded and replaced by youth. The Bible offers this encouragement to senior saints.
The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree,
He shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
Those who are planted in the house of the Lord
Shall flourish in the courts of our God.
They shall still bear fruit in old age;
They shall be fresh and flourishing,
Fresh. Flourishing. Bearing fruit. I like that. And it’s true. Age doesn’t necessarily negate our ability to make significant contributions to society, our families and the Lord’s cause.
Dee Bowman in his fine little book, “The Joy of Growing Old in Christ” wrote, “Aging often produces some limitations as to what a person might do. But aging does not mean that a person cannot do anything.” He offers the example of Peter Roget who invented the thesaurus at age 73. And Grandma Moses whose crippling arthritis prevented her from embroidering began painting at age 76. Three years later, her art was hanging in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
Former gas station operator and restaurateur, Colonel Harlan Sanders, was penniless when he retired at age 65. But his secret recipe for Kentucky Fried Chicken made him his first million at age 73. By the time of Sanders’ death, at age 90, there were an estimated 6,000 KFC outlets in 48 countries worldwide, with $2 billion of sales annually, increasing to $4.2 billion in 2019.
The Bible speaks of God’s use of older people. Moses and Aaron were 80 and 83 when they led Israel out of Egypt. Joshua was close to 80 when he began his conquest of Canaan. Caleb was 85 when he boldly marched into the promised land and proclaimed “Give me this mountain.” Daniel served God in his youth, but was over 80 when he was made Governor of Babylon and later thrown into the lion’s den. And the apostle Paul who referred to himself as “the aged” was still writing letters, preaching the gospel, and witnessing for Jesus even from a Roman prison in his latter years.
In his wonderful book, “The Winter of Life,“ Sewell Hall, who celebrated his 90th birthday this year, reminds us that “winter is not all bad.” It can be a pleasant time of remembrance, reflection, and pleasure just like we can enjoy the warmth of sitting by the fireplace on a snowy day, conversing with family and friends.
Senior Saints can still bear fruit in their latter days of life. Paul instructs older women to teach younger women. And the older men to conduct themselves as good examples to younger men (Titus 2:1-8). Older persons can serve as mentors to younger folks by equipping them in teaching classes, offering marital counsel, and sharing parenting advice.
Senior Saints can still bear fruit as they participate in benevolent work, often possessing resources to provide financial help to those in need. Retired people are some of the most hospitable. They know how to “edify one another” and “encourage one another.” Often, I have seen senior citizens get involved in various activities, making new friends, and using that as an opportunity for sharing their faith.
There are a number of men who are still effectively preaching the gospel, writing, and serving as Shepherds into their late 70’s, 80’s and even 90’s. These men and their wives bring a wealth of wisdom, a marvelous depth of Bible knowledge, and valuable spiritual experience that continues to bless God’s people.
By the way, today is also “International Coffee Day.” So recognize the contributions of “older persons” among us. Take them out for a cup of coffee. And celebrate senior saints.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman