Do you have parents, grandparents, or other loved ones who are suffering from any of the long-term troubles that occur naturally in old age? Here are five ways that you can return their love and support:
Put yourself in their place. You may think you have problems, but if you stop to think about what it might be like to be their age, that would probably give you a much greater appreciation for what some elderly go through.
Many seniors no longer have the physical capacity to do some things they’ve always done, which can be discouraging and lead to feelings of uselessness. Some are not able to see or hear or even to eat or walk on their own, so they feel ashamed, humiliated, stripped of their dignity. Others are in almost continual pain or discomfort. Due to their weakened immune system, even minor ailments can turn into serious problems. Their bones are more fragile and their organs more delicate, and when those are broken or damaged, they require more time to heal.
Depending on their circumstances, they may worry about what will happen if their condition worsens and they don’t have anyone to take care of them, or they may dread becoming a burden to others.
Understanding and sympathy go a long way in easing those hardships and alleviating those fears.
Some seniors may not be as strong or sharp as they once were, but the intangibles that matter most, those personal qualities that make them the unique people they are, have not diminished. In fact, it is often in the later years that qualities such as love, thoughtfulness, loyalty, humility, humor, optimism, and wisdom come to full fruition.
That makes seniors some of the most fascinating people in the world. So does the fact that they have lived through times that those who are younger can never experience firsthand. Take the time to unearth their latent treasures, and you’ll be surprised at what you’ll find. They may even surprise themselves.
Sometimes simply knowing that we are loved can make all the difference in how we view and deal with our present circumstances. Knowing that they are appreciated for past efforts can also help seniors put their lives in perspective and counter feelings of regret over failures and shortcomings, both real and imagined.
Some of the saddest words ever spoken are heard at funerals: “I hope he knew how much he meant to me,” or, “I wish I’d told her more often how much I loved her.” Show love and appreciation while you can.
Numerous studies have shown that physical activity slows the aging process, which results in both prolonged life and improved quality of life. Conversely, a sedentary lifestyle increases the chances of age-related disease and premature death. Even a short walk in the fresh air is beneficial. (Recommendations vary, but a sensible approach is to start low and gradually increase the duration and frequency of exercise to at least 20 minutes, five days a week.)
Other studies have shown that intellectual stimulation can bolster the mind and stave off memory loss in the same way that physical exercise strengthens and protects the body.
Asked why they aren’t more active physically and intellectually, many seniors say it’s because they don’t have anyone with whom they can exercise or engage in mentally challenging activities. Help them stay active, and you will be investing in your own future at the same time.
It has been said that praying for others is not the least we can do for them, but the most. Prayer moves the heart and hand of God to take action according to our requests, to do things that we couldn’t possibly do ourselves. “Things which are impossible with men are possible with God.”1
Prayer opens a two-way channel of communication between us and God, and it works both ways. When we’re asking God for His ear, it’s easier for Him to get ours. Some of His most immediate answers to our prayers come when He is able to involve us.
The very fact that you pray for others shows that you’re concerned about their happiness and well-being, and this puts you in a position to better understand His loving plan for their lives and how you can help bring it to pass. When you pray for someone to not be lonely, for example, God may give you some ideas as to how you can help alleviate that loneliness—perhaps a visit or an afternoon out together, or a phone call, email, or card.
Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”2
Greater love means taking the initiative to reach out; to feel what the other person is feeling; to dry their tears; to bear their burdens; to feel their afflictions; to minister to those who are sick and nurse them back to health; to listen with a loving, open ear to those who need to pour out; to be a caring and understanding friend to those who need a friend; to pray for those in need; to let their heartaches be your heartaches; to make their hopes and dreams your hopes and dreams.
Knowing that you’re loved gives you hope and faith. It cheers up your whole outlook!—David Brandt Berg