You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the LORD (Lev 19:32).
Since the government now considers me "elderly," you would think I have a lot of answers to give her. The thing is, while I may move slower, wear out faster, and hurt more, I really don't feel "elderly." When you start talking about the elderly, I always think you are talking about someone else. But I did care for my mother until her death at 91, and I know very well what she liked and needed.
My mother liked to "go." She couldn't handle long rides, but she loved eating lunch out after a short shopping trip or a visit to the doctor. She especially loved dinner at our house. When we picked her up, she would gaze out the car window as if she had never been anywhere in her life, even if it was the same old rural highway, along the same old fields and forests to my house. A couple of hours, and sometimes not that much, was about all she could handle, especially the last year, but her mood lifted and she slept better that night just from the added activity.
Her next favorite things were visits. Visits break up the monotony of the day and keep one day from blending into the next. If you don't know what to talk about when you visit, stop worrying. Those older people have lived lives just as busy and exciting as yours. Just ask a question or two, then sit back and let them talk.
We spent some time with an elderly lady at church, and were happy to attend her ninetieth birthday party. I had never known anyone but the gray-haired, no bigger than a minute lady who wore glasses every bit as thick as the ones I had as a child. She seldom talked at church, but would give you a beautiful smile if you simply said hello. At her party, her children had put out some old photos and there on the table was a petite, and gorgeous, brunette in her 20s.
"Is that you?" I asked.
"Oh yes," she said. "That was when I toured Europe with the USO, entertaining the troops during World War II." I nearly choked on my birthday cake. I had had no idea.
In my mother's last years I heard stories I would have never known if we had not moved her close to us and had those years together. Things she had never spoken about before, including her conversion, hers and Daddy's honeymoon, and stories of her childhood with a Grandmother who died before I was born. Older people love to reminisce. Those memories are about all they have. Go visit and give them an outlet. You will be amazed at what you hear. Question after question will come to you with no trouble at all, and you will make them feel important again.
And that's what they want more than anything else—to feel like they matter to someone. No one wants to feel like a burden, like someone to be tolerated and a duty to be performed. They need to feel like they still have something to offer, perhaps some wise advice or just an entertaining story. That's what you can give them with hardly any effort at all.
Most of you will become one of those elderly people one day. You will understand then, but you will be stuck right where they are now, hoping someone realizes that they used to be an interesting person too. Set the example for others now so that you don't wind up sitting in your rocker, day after lonely day, watching the world pass by, thinking that you don't matter to anyone any longer.
Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life (Prov 16:31).