As people age, the rigors of life begin to take their toll on them and their vigor and strength begin to wane. They lose their agility and nimbleness. Often the cartilages that line their joints begin to thin out, mostly because of the wear and tear that takes place due to years of movement. The surfaces of their joints are no longer able to slide over each other as smoothly as they used to in their younger days. This increases the vulnerability of the joints to injury. The ligaments whose function is to bind the joints together, and the tendons that bind the muscles to bones begin to lose their elasticity; making the joints feel achy and stiff. This is why most elderly people become less flexible. When they injure themselves healing comes slowly. Muscle tissue and muscle strength and contraction begin to decrease. Although it is a blessing, old age can be a disconcerting and somber phase in life because it often demands dependence on others. Sadly, a synopsis of modern research demonstrates that elder abuse is rampant-in private homes, nursing homes and other long-term institutions. The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) claims that approximately 6 million cases of elder abuse were reported in 2012 in the United States alone and 47% of abusers are children of the victim. But elder abuse is prevalent all over the world. That is why the World Health Organization (WHO) has mounted a global response to elder abuse and neglect. A self-report survey by WHO claims that 40% of nursing home staff admitted that they had psychologically abused an elderly person in their care in spite of statutory laws and other legislation against such conduct. Although many organizations have been established to combat this atrocity, elder abuse continues to occur due to the sinful nature of the human heart, which cannot be regenerated by legislation alone. Unfortunately, a society which despises its elderly has nothing to offer its future generations.
God has a predilection for the elderly, and Scripture is replete with laws about how the elderly are to be treated-with deference and respect: “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,” (Leviticus 19:32). The value of a human being is not limited to their capabilities or to the sum of their achievements. It is embedded in what we are. Being old does not diminish the image of God in us. Respect for the elderly starts with parents: “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you” (Exodus 20: 12). This is one of the charisms of longevity and its motif extends throughout Scripture.
For more on Bible-based elder care, refer to The Perfect Prescription, pp. 323-335