Consider the following scenario. You are a farmer who has learned the trade well and studied your trade for years. You’ve been physically feeding the chickens and other feed to animals, you’ve milked your cows on your own, plowed and seeded the land meeting the daily needs of the farm. One day you invest in machines that can do it all for you. You’ve sold all your tools to invest in the machine and keep up with the changing society. You needed to do this if you were to keep up with the times. You’ve hooked up the machines and this saves you much physical exertion, time and money. With the press of a button, you are able to accomplish all your needs.
The farm is going great. But one day the machine breaks down. You don’t have access to the feed, or the tools to do the work that you have been trained to accomplish. All of a sudden you are stuck and unable to feed your animals. If you don’t feed them soon, they will die and your farm will suffer as a result. You will suffer if you don’t find a solution. You input the codes you’re told to and nothing happens. You call a company to help you fix the problem, but they are overbooked and can’t make it out to your farm for weeks. There is no way to get the feed. It is literally trapped in the machine. Your animals will die and the farm will suffer. What do you do?
It seems like a far-fetched metaphor, as there are seemingly other solutions to these problems, but for many in our society this is a real situation. This scenario is what aging Americans face every day. We have evolved so quickly in our society that the ever-changing pace has left some of our citizens behind. Elderly Americans who are not computer literate are lost. This is a social justice issue. It begs the questions, “How many companies truly consider the needs of the aging baby boomer population?” “What are they doing to help elderly Americans adjust to this kind of change?”
Newspapers are slowly disappearing in this digital age and many newspapers are turning to electronic media for revenue. Some elderly Americans may not have the opportunity to reap the benefits of reading a newspaper. I have elderly friends who were business owners. They were so busy keeping up with the needs of their business, that they never learned the essential needs of learning computers. These corporate heads would hire the people they needed to fix a problem and learning computers was low priority. They are suffering now as a result of this.
In his book “Future Shock,” Alvin Toffler predicted that technology would grow so fast that it would overwhelm the average person and virtually leave them incapable of keeping up with the changing times. He believed that the rate of change would cause chaos, anxiety, depression and eventual burnout. Toffler died two years ago, but he lived long enough to see some of his ideas come to fruition. Sadly, as an elderly American it was very possible that he faced this very scenario himself.
There is hope! Organizations have the opportunity to pair elderly citizens with adolescents who can help them. Being aware of the problem is half the battle. The other half is finding people in our society who will give of their time to better the lives of others. Pastors around the country have valuable resources to help alleviate the tensions that elderly individuals face. Youth groups have a unique opportunity to serve this population by giving of themselves and their time to help.
In 1 Corinthians 12, St. Paul poses the idea of utilizing the gifts of the community. In recognizing the empowerment of the community, Paul counted on individuals to utilize their gifts to the fullest. He writes:
“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work… Now to each one the manifestation of the spirit is given for the common good.”
St. Paul helps us to see that the Spirit is calling forth a greater awareness of unity in employing our gifts in community. The elderly have more to teach our youth and this is a great opportunity for crossing generational lines in growing understanding in our communities. Now it’s time to consider how our elderly might help us understand the challenges of aging and help children empathize with them. Are we up to the task of addressing the issue?
Question for consideration:
What can you do to motivate youth to help the elderly?
What gifts of the elderly and youth in your community can promote unity through the recognition of one body in Christ?