"I'm So Disappointed!"

One of our granddaughter’s friends at Pathfinder Church, serves once a month, like many of her peers, on Sunday mornings in a first-second grade Bible class as an assistant. Recently, Matt, who volunteers as a helper with attendance in Eloise’s department, saw this pre-teen rushing down a long hallway to catch up to the others before worship. She was out of breath from covering half a football field distance. Matt inquired about her hurried pace and the girl answered, “I’m running late because an older person wanted to talk to me!” And Matt surmised that she meant someone closer to his late-forties age range! We laugh because we say that age is relative, until it isn’t, and becomes personal!😉

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Common themes that arise all too often in my visits to seniors residing in independent and assisted living facilities are the matters of loneliness and isolation. Many middle-aged adult caregivers are stressed by their busy lives and hectic schedules. They are trying to manage their day-to-day work along with their own children’s involvement in sports, school and even church activities. Some of these are also broken and divided families that are dealing with levels of relational dysfunction. The impact upon their older adult family members is that they so often feel neglected.

It would help to remember that the transition to senior adulthood often involves retirement from employment from which we derive meaning and purpose. There are not a lot of handbooks on how to grow old gracefully! This stage of life is often accompanied by a loss of health, restricted mobility, and an inability to care for oneself. Discouragement, depression, and dementia are other issues common to this age. Just at the time when seniors want and need to be included, they feel marginalized by the very families they have spent a lifetime invested in!

This hurts at so many levels! One confided to me recently that they were purposely not told about a grandchild’s wedding. Another, simply wanted to have transportation to a big box store to pick up some items and was refused by a family member who bluntly declared, “I don’t have time to take you to Walmart and wait on you to get toiletries!”  And another was burdened about the impact of family division and disharmony on their young adult children. And still another senior made this raw and heart-breaking statement in my presence, “I’m so disappointed!” Each of these senior adults just wanted to be respected, acknowledged, and included in the family they love.

What is the short answer? There probably isn’t any simple solution. I suspect that, in each case, families need to do a better job of communicating. This should be easy with the availability of cell phones and the capabilities of calling, texting, and emailing. Of course, time is of the essence, and the remedies will take some time out of our busy schedules. I had a counseling professor who once said, “The finest compliment you can give to another person is to give them your complete attention.” The context for that remark was in dealing with a classroom full of disrespectful and inattentive students! How many times did I hear this growing up? “Respect your elders!” It’s still a good bit of advice, especially in family life.

Paul spoke plainly when he wrote this instruction to Timothy, “And whoever does not provide for relatives, and especially family members, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (I Timothy 5:8). Paul also quoted these words from the Ten Commandments, “‘Honor your father and mother’ – this is the first commandment with a promise: so that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.” (Ephesians 6:2-3, NRSV).  

Let’s make some space in our lives for our older adult family members and friends! They are counting on us and deserve our love and attention!

Mike Keppler, retired pastor,

active churchman and
doting grandparent.
Contact: drmjkeppler@gmail.com




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