Our Hidden God

Dr. Mary Manz Simon, ALOA Board of Directors

Picture of sunrise

Where have you seen God today?

That’s a valid question during these turbulent times. If we think too hard about the challenges associated with aging or inflation, even the most optimistic person can become discouraged.

Viewing each day through a concept identified by Martin Luther can shift the perspective. Luther referred to our “Hidden God.” He wasn’t saying that God isn’t revealed through the glorious Strawberry Moon of June or the Scriptures we read daily. Luther was contrasting our expectations with how God actually works.

We tend to be like Elijah, who sought God in powerful acts of nature. We too, look for God in the milestone moments. But Luther noted that the Bible overflows with examples of how our “Hidden God” worked through ordinary people and everyday situations.

When our children were growing up, we shared daily “God sightings” at our dinner table. We simply told how God had been active. Often the moments were less than monumental. However, by looking for God, I believe we all realized how busy God actually was. We grew increasingly more aware of His presence.

As older adults, we only need a brief moment to recall some of the ways God has been present through the years. We remember how even ordinary situations became significant when our “Hidden God” held us in the palm of His hand.

God is still busy. How will He reveal himself to you, today?

Take a look at previous posts for more inspiration for older adult ministry.

Jogging our Memory

Dr. Mary Manz Simon, ALOA Board of Directors

Diagram of residents on cul de sac

There’s a “memory prompt” hidden in our kitchen cabinet. The scrap of paper hanging on the inside door helps us “look smart” when we socialize with neighbors.

As people moved into our new community, my husband recorded the names of those on our cul-de-sac. Now, we greet friends by name. A “senior moment” doesn’t stop the socializing.

During the aging process, we become increasingly forgetful. We might not remember where we left the phone or dropped a jacket. These mental glitches are common among older adults. That’s why many of us organize medications in a daily pill case or hang a key holder at the garage door.

Although we might assume mental sharpness declines very late in life, scientists now know the brain’s volume peaks in our early 20’s. The brain cortex starts to shrink in our 40’s, when we might first notice slight changes in the ability to multi-task or remember. The pace of this mental decline speeds up with increasing years.

Often, our sensitivity about memory loss or choosing just the “right” word happens because we compare current abilities now to what we did when younger. However, even during “old age,” our brain still isn’t “over the hill.” Learning is a life-long process: our brains can produce cells at any age. We can still grasp new information and save it in our memory bank. That’s good news!

Take these 3 steps to support memory fitness:

  1. Reduce anxiety. We are more likely to suffer memory gaps when we’re stressed. Although COVID continues to be an invisible negative, prioritize mental and emotional health. Reframe expectations to fit the reality of life in a pandemic. We’ve come this far. With God’s help, we can continue to take one day at a time.
  2. Adjust and adapt. Age-related changes in how we code and retrieve information are a part of life. Write a list of things “always to take” when leaving the house: wallet, sunglasses, hearing aids, etc. Then post the list on your most common exit door. Routines broken into “One, Two, Three” can also be a handy memory aid.
  3. Be optimistic. Decide to set a positive tone each morning. Scientists say facial expressions impact our mood, so see if smiling into the mirror boosts your positivity level. Or, read an uplifting psalm: try 136, 147 or 148. A balanced lifestyle, including regular aerobic exercise, boosts spirits. These activities that promote healthy aging also contribute to a healthy memory.

Although some brain changes are inevitable during the aging process, many things don’t change. Our moral framework provides a foundation of internalized Scripture-based values. Decades of life experiences contribute to a solid base of knowledge. Our innate common sense guides judgment calls.

The Old Testament prophet, Job, wrote, “Old people are wise. Those who live a long time have understanding.” (Job 12:12 NIRV) We gain that depth when we accept and adjust to normal, age-related changes and trust the God who has demonstrated his faithfulness.

Take a look at previous posts for more inspiration for older adult ministry.

More than “Grandpacore”

Dr. Mary Manz Simon, ALOA Board of Directors

Has your niece or grandchild found inspiration in your closet?

One of the most surprising fashion trends to emerge from the pandemic is being led by Gen Z and Millennials, or those born between 1981 and 2002. According to “experts” on Pinterest and Instagram, dressing like older adults is “totally hot.”

Older woman laughing

Has that thought crossed your “Grandmillennial” jewelry appeals to younger consumers who are looking for reflections of simpler times. Jewelers are busy resetting inherited heritage pieces or keepsakes which have collected dust for years.

That’s not all. Echoes of “Grandpacore” are evident in the men’s fashion space. Online searches for oversized cardigans, “grandpa sweaters” and relaxed jeans are hitting new heights.

While this unexpected attention to our fashions is rather amusing, ride the wave of remembrance to a point of actual significance. Give young people in your family more than a taste of nostalgia: share your Faith Story.

In March, I presented this topic at Veterans of the Cross, a national conference for retired professional church workers. Even though these Christian servants had spent their lives sharing the Good News, some appeared surprised that in a Faith Story, our personal history actually recedes. God becomes the focus. That’s because God’s faithfulness emerges as the theme. God’s actions through the years powers our Faith Story.

Celebrate what God has done in, with and for you. Share your Faith Story with someone you love.

Take a look at previous posts for more inspiration for older adult ministry.

Accelerated Aging

Dr. Mary Manz Simon, ALOA Board of Directors

“I’m too young to look so old.”

Woman applying face cream

Has that thought crossed your mind? As the pandemic drags on, some of us have discovered the mirror doesn’t lie. One poll discovered that women feel they aged four years in a single pandemic year.

Another study found the nation’s blood pressure has increased. Signs of pandemic-accelerated aging aren’t imagined. Scientists agree: the pandemic is aging us at a faster-than-normal pace.

Before-and-after pandemic photos confirm this fact. “Stress aging” of the past two years can trigger an unwelcome chain of events which has a cumulative effect on how we feel, look and behave.

A flurry of anti-aging solutions offers the usual suggestions. Exercise. Eat smart. Improve and extend your sleep. Practice stress-reducing activities including meditation, yoga and spiritual discipline to meld body and mind. And now, sport enthusiasts would add, “read the headlines to be encouraged.”

Three “Golden Agers” have been praised as inspirational human beings “not being slowed by age.” Tom Brady, Lindsey Jacobellis and Nick Baumgartner deserve the accolades. Forty-four-year-old Brady briefly retired after 22 years of NFL football. Thirty-six-year-old Jacobellis became the oldest American woman to win an Olympic medal. At age 40, Baumgartner, her snowboard cross partner, was the oldest American athlete at the Beijing Games.

Uplifted? Invigorated? Motivated?

Although I respect, appreciate, and enthusiastically applaud the stellar performances of world class athletes, I’m more inspired by some true old timers.

  • Noah, who at the age of 600, grabbed a hammer to build an ark longer than any of Brady’s football fields.
  • Or Joshua, who at 101 years of age modeled leadership as the walls of Jericho tumbled before him. He didn’t wait for someone else to step forward.
  • Or Anna, a night owl who was “very old”, her work ethnic continued even as she led a somewhat eccentric life.

Age doesn’t define impact when God leads the way.

Take a look at previous posts for more inspiration for older adult ministry.

Do You Want to Live to 100?

Dr. Mary Manz Simon, ALOA Board of Directors

If you hope to be a centenarian, the future might be closer than you think.

A new “Life Map” released by the Stanford Longevity Center reveals that living to one hundred might become the norm, not the exception. After all, many of the 10,000 baby boomers who turn 65 today are expected to live well past the age of 90. The big question is, “How can I maximize this bonus time?”

Health realistically defines the outer limits. But within those boundaries, three steps can help us maximize these years.

  1. Reevaluate what it means to grow old. Chronological age is no longer the only metric. Looking beyond outdated stereotypes, research suggests that older adults show superior judgment, reliability, and mentoring skills than those who are younger. At our age, we can “see the forest through the trees.” Who can benefit from my lifetime of knowledge and experience?
  2. “Backfill” later years. In the traditional life map, early years are front-end loaded. Education is crammed into the first two decades, yet learning is a lifelong process. “Backfilling” as an older adult might involve taking a class, teaching others or mastering a new technology. However, we need to be emotionally open to growing. In what ways am I willing to change and learn?
  3. Focus forward. Look at peers for clues to healthy ageing. Don’t merely watch those vibrant 70 year olds who play pickle ball at 7 am. Be inspired by the neighbor smiling from her wheelchair or the stroke victim who shuffles into worship. How can I move past the challenges I face today?

Regardless of our age, you and I are still God’s unfinished masterpiece. (Ephesians 2:10) In what ways will you honor the Creator today?

Take a look at previous posts for more inspiration for older adult ministry.

More Than Memories

Dr. Mary Manz Simon, ALOA Board of Directors

Has that box of old photos been calling you?

You know the one. It’s the heavy bin, nearly overflowing with photos, Kodak slides (remember those?) and random bits from the past.

As the pandemic drags on, finding ways to feel productive has been increasingly difficult for older adults. Socializing safely is nearly impossible as outdoor temperatures drop. Volunteering is still limited. Gray winter days mirror our mood. Perhaps this is the day to drag out that bin. After all, looking back can give us the courage to look ahead.

As we get older, our life stories take on a rosy glow. Researchers tell us there is a positivity bias in aging. This new “strategic memory” leads us to focus on what matters. Quite simply, we can become more aware of God’s footprints.

Life doesn’t fall into neat little categories, so our Christian beliefs and behaviors are woven throughout the years. Reviewing the past through a lens of faith causes us to recall what God has been doing over time. When we look for God’s footprints, we see how busy He has been.

Sorting through the mementos, we might identify a situation in which God steered us through a crisis. Dusting off the photos, we might see how God blessed an important relationship. And through the process, we become more aware of His continuing presence.

Today, let’s step back and notice God, again! For when the Holy Spirit guides our thoughts we won’t merely say, “Thanks, God, for the memories.” We will say with new conviction, “Thank you, God, for your faithfulness.”

Take a look at previous posts for more inspiration for older adult ministry.