Ageism has always existed – otherwise God would not have had to command people to take care of their elderly parents. Over the centuries though, some cultures have realized the value of respecting older people and considering whatever wisdom they may have to share. Ours is not one of those cultures. To be quite fair, we should treat everyone with respect regardless of their age – as Christians it is one of our “top two” commands. And, I hasten to admit, not everyone grows wiser as they grow older – some just continue making poor choices and advising others to do the same. Throughout the Bible though, God commands older people to teach and mentor younger people and younger people to be willing to take advice and learn from them (when it matches God’s Word).
Perhaps you are reluctant to try and create opportunities for your children to spend time with older adults. You may think your schedule is already overbooked or that all the older people you know aren’t very wise… after all, they know nothing about technology or the latest trends. Before you close this post and continue isolating your children from “old” people, consider these thoughts on providing your children with lots of interactions with the senior citizen set.
- Your children need to know the value of wisdom – especially wisdom from God. Wisdom that isn’t from God isn’t wisdom. (Godly wisdom can, however, can be shared by people who have rejected God – although they are often unaware from whence it came). Knowledge is not wisdom, although it is necessary to have knowledge to become wise. Tech savvy – or the lack thereof – has no relation to wisdom. Older people are not the only ones who can be wise, but there is a element of wisdom connected to life experience. Proverbs 1:7 reinforces that fools despise wisdom and that wisdom is rooted in the fear/respect of the Lord. Wisdom can protect them from making poor choices and reaping the negative consequences.
- Teach your children that knowledge and wisdom should be actively sought. Wisdom isn’t going to just fill their heads because they ate the right foods, exercised or slept well. Pursuing wisdom – reading scripture, listening to wise, godly people and other active pursuits of knowledge and wisdom are needed to become wise.
- Teach your children to recognize the signs that someone is wise. Thankfully, God gave us a pretty thorough list in James 3:17… godly wisdom is pure, peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. Godly wisdom will never contradict the Bible. No Christian is perfect, but a wise Christian will regularly display these attributes – and so will their advice.
- Help your children understand the value of life experience. Here is where older adults can help your children in all sorts of ways in addition to spiritually. Maybe after years of cooking, they have learned what ingredients can add something special to a dish or be substituted – and what happens when you don’t keep their advice in mind. Or they’ve learned a quicker way of doing something or a way to hold something together with paper clips or duct tape until you can get it fixed. Spiritually speaking, they have seen a lifetime of examples of people who did or did not obey God and what happened. They know from experience that disobeying and rejecting God never ends well.
- Encourage your kids to find things in common with older people. Realizing they have things in common is a great first step into developing empathy, love and respect for older people.
- Take advantage of the time to listen and mentor that many older adults have to share with your children. Today’s young people are in pain today in part because they have no one to listen to them and mentor them. The adults in their lives are too busy to give them much time and attention. Finding an older mentor for your children can give them the extra attention they need and someone to support the godly things you are telling them.
- Find older people who are encouragers. Everybody could use another person in their lives who will encourage them. Keep your older friends aware of when your children have events or could use an encouraging conversation to keep trying.
- Teach your children Paul’s formula for using people as inspiration. In 1 Corinthians 11:1, Paul advises readers to follow him only as he followed Christ. Even the most godly Christian people sin. Your children’s ultimate example should always be Christ. If they admire something about someone older, it is fine to use the person as inspiration – as long as the person was following Christ in what they did.
Make the time in your family calendar to spend time with “old” people. All of your lives may be richer because of the experience.