I recently had the opportunity to share the Gospel with a dear lady who had reluctantly confessed her fear of dying. She listened intently as I told her the truth about God’s Son. Tears sprang to the woman’s eyes when I explained that no sin could disqualify her from salvation or ever separate her from God’s love through Christ. A burden was lifted from her countenance when I told her all she needed to do to receive this gift was to believe (Acts 16:30-31).
Did this precious soul make a life-changing decision for Christ after our talk? No, she did not. She didn’t need to. She’d been saved for over seventy years. But her Spirit needed a reminder of a truth her mind had misplaced. God’s Word came to the rescue and put her deepest fear to rest.
Do older people struggle with other fears they’re hesitant to admit? If so, how can the Body of Christ help them live their golden years in God’s peace? I asked these questions to a diverse group of senior citizens and summarized their top three answers for this article. No matter your beliefs or age, our seniors’ concerns are worth pondering. But for Christians, this insight provides a valuable tool that we can use to demonstrate Christ’s love in targeted ways.
1. Fear of Being Isolated and Alone
It’s no secret that loneliness and isolation have been among seniors’ top ten fears for over a decade, according to the National Council on Aging (NCOA). But since the onset of the global health crises, those fears have soared to the top of the list and taken on a whole new dimension.
Mandatory quarantines, travel restrictions, and necessary social distancing measures have affected older people more profoundly than any other sect of the population. While most of the world turned to virtual gatherings to stay connected during lockdown periods, many seniors found themselves more alone than ever—at a time they were more at risk than ever.
A recent survey conducted by NCOA found that only 38 percent of older adults feel comfortable using the internet and less than half have broadband access. Even though social distancing restrictions have eased since the first mandatory quarantine, some seniors still haven’t bounced back. Caution has kept them from returning to gatherings like church, senior centers, or family celebrations.
God created humans as social beings for a reason. Our meaningful connections with each other provide mutual benefits—physically, mentally, and emotionally. Studies have shown that prolonged social isolation can cause cognitive decline, depression, and heart problems.
As Christians, our need to connect goes beyond temporal benefits. Together we are the Body of Christ. Because our seniors are an integral part of that Body, we must find ways to safely include them in fellowship and ministry for the overall health of the Church (1 Corinthians 12:26-27).
Practical ways we can help seniors feel less alone:
Listen: Have you spoken with the seniors in your family and community lately? Be sure to check on them frequently. Ask probing questions that will help you discern their immediate and long-term relational needs. Ask seniors outright if they feel lonely or isolated. Listen between the lines and take their answers seriously.
Act: Show care in old-school ways: send a card, write a letter, make a phone call, deliver a treat or homecooked meal, offer to drive a senior to the supermarket, a doctor’s appointment, or to your home for a visit. If the older person still feels uncomfortable attending in-person church—take the church to them, one at a time. The best way to help anyone feel less alone is to extend Christ’s love through the gift of time and your faithful, ongoing presence in their lives.
Share the truth: Seniors need to be reminded of God’s promise that no matter how isolated they feel, they are never alone. Some older people find it difficult to stay plugged into scripture, because of vision problems or other physical challenges. If that’s the case, take the time to look up the following verses about God’s continual presence and create a large print poster for their use. Or create a video or audio recording of these Biblical truths that can be easily accessed by a senior citizen for reassurance (Psalm 23, Romans 8:38-39, Matthew 28:20, John 14:27).
2. Fears about Future Evil
Yesterday’s generations have experienced horrors and challenges younger people can’t fathom. They’ve persevered through war, oppression, discrimination, and financial collapse. Some have given life and limb to secure the freedoms we now enjoy. But what happens when a hero is no longer physically able to stand against the evils of the world to defend nation, family, and home?
Given the choice, any parent would much rather face an enemy head-on, than send their children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren into battle, especially into unfamiliar territory. Today’s generation will face horrors and challenges older generations can’t fathom—and that can be frightening for seniors.
The battles they fought, for the most part, seemed like clear-cut choices between right and wrong. Today, as evil abounds and threatens to obliterate Truth from the world, some older folks wonder if any hope remains for their families after they’re gone. These anxieties can increase when home-bound seniors spend hours binge-watching news broadcasts and other programs that sensationalize the chaos and corruption prevalent in our society.
Christians have a responsibility to rise up and support older people when they’re tempted to forget the identity of the real enemy and his pre-determined fate. We need to use God’s Word to remind our seniors that no matter what the future holds—God holds the future.
Practical ways to address seniors’ fears about the future:
Listen: Find out how the seniors in your life feel about the future. Don’t assume you know the answer—ask them, and carefully consider their answers. Maybe the older folks in your life aren’t concerned about the distant future. Maybe they’re more anxious about the future at hand—their health, finances, or residence. These are important questions to ask because not all seniors will volunteer the information. Even if you can’t provide all the answers, you can let an older person know you’re willing to share their burden by actively listening to their concerns.
Act: If your seniors are home-bound and frequently watch television to fill their hours, don’t simply suggest they spend less time viewing disturbing programs—provide supplies for an alternative hobby—like gardening, model-kits, puzzles, or good books. Better yet, health permitting, help the older person participate in local senior center activities or join an adult learning class. If all else fails, offer to buy your senior a subscription to a wholesome television network, that only presents uplifting content.
Share the Truth: Help an older person who struggles with fear about the future read and/or memorize one or more of these scriptures about God’s protection and provision. Or read the passages to them and ask them to repeat key truths aloud. Pray God’s word with your senior whenever the temptation for fear arises (John 16:33, Psalm 91).
3. Fear of No Longer Mattering
We’re all born with an innate desire to feel useful and valued, not only to our loved ones, but to society. Our drive to matter is so powerful it propels us through life and helps us fulfill our purpose, calling, and vocation.
In fact, long after we’ve raised our families, celebrated our retirement, and passed our ministry on to those with fresher ideas and later bedtimes—the need to matter still burns strong. When age diminishes an older person’s ability to demonstrate their usefulness to the world, some seniors fall into the trap of feeling worthless. Sadly, our culture has a hand in laying that trap.
The U.S. is currently home to over 54 million people over the age of 65. By 2030 that number is projected to rise to 74 million. In just a couple of decades, older people are expected to outnumber children for the first time in U.S. history. How does our current culture view the exploding senior citizen population? Not well.
Amid nationwide accusations that seniors are responsible for the “wrecked economy,” and the “ruined environment,” ageism runs rampant in our youth-obsessed media, who treats aging like a disease. This prejudice has been further reinforced during peak COVID outbreaks, through the actions and statements of various politicians and health care providers who feel that older persons are expendable.
Deception is at the root of these evil campaigns leveled against our oldest citizens. If the enemy can systematically, or physically, cut us off from our elders’ valuable wisdom, experience, and insight—his job to destroy humanity is made much easier.
“And since we cannot deceive the whole human race all the time, it is most important thus to cut every generation off from all others; for where learning makes a free commerce between the ages there is always the danger that the characteristic errors of one may be corrected by the characteristic truths of another.” –CS Lewis, The Screwtape Letters
Practical ways to help seniors realize their worth:
Listen: Seniors may have a difficult time verbalizing feelings of insignificance, but we can listen for cues. Comments like: “Never get old,” “I’m just waiting for my time to come,” or “Ask someone whose opinion still counts,” can be warning signs that older people have bought into the lie that their lives no longer matter.
Act: All our listening and sharing will fall on deaf ears if we’re unwilling to live the truth we preach. We need to seek forgiveness from seniors if we’ve taken them and their wisdom for granted in the past. Asking for their advice, showing genuine interest in their opinions, and involving them in important decision-making will help our elders realize how much we still desperately need them.
Share the Truth: As with anyissue that involves self-esteem, our seniors need to be reminded from God’s Word, that true value can’t be measured by what they contribute to society, nor by any past accomplishment. Our worth was settled long ago when Jesus paid the ultimate price for our ransom. Those who are in Christ are no longer deemed worthy based on who they are—they’re counted worthy because of Whose they are (2 Corinthians 12:9-10, 1 Peter 2:9, Luke 12:6-7).
Older folks also need to be assured—through scripture—that if they’re here on this earth, God has preserved their life for a purpose. Until God calls them home, He will provide the strength and power needed to fulfill their God-given mission (Ephesians 2:10, Philippians 4:11-13).
Annette Marie Griffin is an award-winning author and speaker who has managed and directed children’s and youth programs for more than 20 years. Her debut children’s book, What Is A Family? released through Familius Publishing in 2020. Annette has also written curriculum for character growth and development of elementary-age children and has developed parent training seminars to benefit the community. Her passion is to help wanderers find home. She and her husband have five children—three who have already flown the coop and two adopted teens still roosting at home—plus two adorable grands who add immeasurable joy and laughter to the whole flock.
Continually promoting the myth and superstition of some eternal salvation is a larger problem than any other for old people. You create the fear in them. Certainly the fake news on the entertainment channel can cause stress but people want to cling to something. I am 74 and have no fear of being alone. I also believe we are irrelevant. We have shaped the country and now it is up to the younger voters to take over. The incessant brain washing of children about religion is damaging. Just be nice and cooperative and stop worrying about some imaginary god. Stop worrying about imaginary salvation. Just focus on doing the right thing for your friends, family and neighbors. You talk about truth when everything you teach is based on faith, no facts. Myth and superstition!