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Down-size to where….?

June 22nd, 2018
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By Barry Hatfield

We’re all aging. And one of the toughest decisions we’ll encounter in this process is the one that affects how and where we should live out our days when maintaining our present living circumstances becomes too much to handle because of our age.

Whether as a couple or single person, the decision to ‘down-size’ from maybe a larger house to a more modest dwelling can hang heavy on the mind as the years roll on and we find ourselves often struggling to cope with the physical burden of playing the role of ‘keeping house’ in the play of life. The novelty can quickly tire as we pile on the years.

And there are other serious factors that sway our approach to those years in the later stages of life’s journey, especially if we lose a partner or we find ourselves single in a busy youth-dominated society that seems full of social activities – but increasingly without our participation because of age.

It would be hard to find another topic more popular — and pertinent — in retiree circles, than the one question: What should I (we) do?

Fact is, every situation is unique to the individual. The saying that one size fits all doesn’t apply here. Wish that it would. At this stage of life it would be so much easier.

This is the reason the ‘retirement’ industry is big business these days. Numerous dedicated books, magazines, newspaper supplements and retiree websites feed readers hungry for information to help them in the making of intelligent decisions in this vital phase of life.

It can all be a bit confusing, for the most part. No one article can answer the question: What is best for the individual – be they single or married?

Compared to house-living, choices range from a unit, villa, townhouse or an ‘Over-55’ apartment complex, to what is one of the more popular options available today – the retirement village concept.

The latter tends to be the most controversial option for those of us in the ‘aging’ game. Realistically though, each of the options on the table carries its own ‘strengths-and-weaknesses’ in the eyes of the individual searcher. Apply that old but true dictum ’We’re all different’ and you’re on the right path.

While the village system is popular it isn’t for everyone. The financial and contractual aspects can be complex and legal advice is essential before anyone signs up. Villages range from church-owned with moderate charges and basic facilities to top-line private commercial enterprises offering luxury life-style facilities, which are reflected in their financial charge structures.

For two of Sydney church’s couples, their recent down-sizing choice led to the retirement village model. Helen and Jeff Callaghan and Robyn and John Pemberton left their long-held family homes for quite a different lifestyle – both noting equally pleasant results.

Relieved of the burden of house and land maintenance (men take note) they’ve entered an environment where people daily dominate over the physical care of ’things’.

Both rated the importance — at this stage of life — of having people nearby, with the social contacts this brings. The opportunity to attend functions and outings arranged by the village was rated by Robyn as a real blessing. She and John are now both involved in their village community’s church activities, while Robyn has already been asked to start a small choir for one of the village church services held throughout the week.

Christian church services and Bible-study groups are now popular in many villages, allowing people of more mature age to share their faith without leaving the village as their health and strength diminishes.

Helen is already involved with her village and sees opportunity to use her Sydney congregation leadership roles to ‘grow’ spiritually in different, new, challenging and inclusive activities with others within the village.

Aging brings medical issues. Most villages (as opposed to the strata-titled living options listed earlier) offer 24-hour assistance in various forms. This gives a measure of comfort to the occupier should help be required. And having folks of similar age around to occasionally discuss life’s challenges knowing they possibly share them as well, can be rewarding to all.

But Helen and Jeff report there can be a lot of fun at times when their small village gets together, while Robyn and John find our GCI Christian walk is finding fertile acceptance in receptive fellow-villagers.
John sums up his feelings about their move with smiling candour: “I feel like I’ve won the lottery!”

Over 60's

FALLING….BUT NOT FALLEN

September 29th, 2016
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By Barry Hatfield

I took a fall recently.

It’s something that we of the ‘older generation’ are prone to do.

Just a quick slip on wet grass in our sloping backyard … and a micro-second later I was on the ground with shoulder and wrist on my right side taking the impact. It could have been much worse. The pain, stiffness and joint immobility came later that day as swelling cut in. Cold packs and bed-rest speeded recovery.

But … (there always seems to be a ‘but’), the real discomfort began to creep in immediately and it concerned how I had been seeing myself as a ‘senior’ – up until then. And it wasn’t all that pleasant.

I had taken a fall.

I had ‘known’ that older folk appeared to topple over more than the virile, stronger, younger generation surrounding us, but suddenly I was up there with those of the ‘fallen’, it seemed.

I discovered I was vulnerable. And I didn’t like it. It wasn’t funny. It was a little disconcerting. Was this the start of something inevitable, irreversible for someone of my age?

Sadly, the answer is yes – to a degree.

Since that day, I’ve been having mild bouts of ‘vulnerability-itus’. I’m finding that where once, in earlier days, I boldly stepped, I now foresee a pathway seemingly mined with booby traps specially crafted for my particular age group.

Yet this is nothing new. Our physical bodies don’t carry a lifetime warranty, despite our attempts at regular care and maintenance and careful driving. It’s just that we tend not to want to think about the limitations on our chassis until we’re confronted with an incident on the highway of life.

I clearly remember when I was a teenager, my 80 year-old grand-mother slipping on a linoleum floor and landing on her shoulder (much as I did). The injury was not serious, but the mental-emotional-physiological shock triggered deeply locked-away memories of childhood that she continually verbalised to the gathered family that evening. As a youngster I found it confronting. And all because of a fall.

Yes, our old bodies are vulnerable to trauma — and not necessarily of our own doing. If we were left to fend for ourselves we could find the going very rough indeed. Thankfully, we’re not alone, whether we safely ride the storm of life without the need of a lifeboat; or find ourselves in rough water without a life-jacket and heading for jagged rocks.

With all this falling business that older people often suffer (along with many other issues of life) God seems to have set an ‘Early Warning System that, if we’re alert enough, we can sense what could be ahead – and so take measures to skirt around potential road-blocks to a more productive walk in our later years.

Feeling vulnerable (but not frightened) is one such warning. The present world glorifies senseless risk-taking; the results of which we see in our daily news. In contrast, members of Christ’s church value their body and the longer they live the more they rely on His Grace to sustain and nurture what they’ve been given to use for Him.

Knowing we’re vulnerable (that word again) to the physical impositions of this aging life spreads a reality blanket over us when minor and major incidents surface unexpectedly – even a slip on the grass!

God’s awareness of this ‘vulnerability’ is a comfort. He wants his aged people to live productively within the bounds of their physicality so that their spiritual journey may bring Him all the glory.

As aged, we will probably ‘fall’ at some time in our human frailness and physical weakness and suffer the painful effects for a season. Despite this though, we’re given a solid promise in 2 Peter 1:10 for what is vastly more important than the increasing effects of aging on our physical bodies. Here it is:

‘Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall….

Now that’s re-assuring. But he isn’t finished. Rather than promising a support mechanism to prevent us toppling over in our later years, we’re given far more than any assistance package man could ever offer the weary, infirm, damaged, wounded, aged and injured of this life.

‘…and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.’

We may have falls in this life, but we’re certainly not of … the fallen.

Over 60's

Perspectives for an Ageing Congregation

November 3rd, 2014
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Congregations can start off young and full of the confidence of youth. But if they remain faithful over the decades, then the inevitable will become true: they will become an ageing congregation.This is in fact very positive. It means that people have endured until the end and their walk with God has not been just a youthful passing fad, but a life time commitment to doing good and pleasing God.

 
I would like to share several perspectives .

 
1. The first one comes from the late John Halford. A couple of years before his recent death, John made a video about growing older entitled Changing Seasons. To view please click here.

 
There is a reality we have to accept. We are mortal and we do age. But we can also discover that this season of life does offer its own opportunities.

 
2. Regardless of how we live there is what the book of Ecclesiastes describes as in

 
Ecclesiastes 12:1

 Remember your Creator
    in the days of your youth,
before the days of trouble come
    and the years approach when you will say,
    “I find no pleasure in them”—

 
And we cannot sugar coat this reality. It is something we as an ageing congregation need to appreciate and seek the love of God to share this burden with one another. Many are house bound or have limited opportunity to get out. Others are suffering the grief of loss – whether bodily functions or of family members. In fact one could say that ageing can be a series of losses with the accompanying grief.

 
Thus there is an opportunity of the congregation to mourn with those who mourn and to share the comfort of God with one another.

 
3. Recently Joe Tkach discussed the following:

 
At times we’ve referred affectionately to our very small, often aging congregations as “legacy churches.” We’ve stopped doing so because it implies that they don’t have a meaningful, ongoing part in the mission of God. But that’s not what we believe. We value every congregation, no matter how small and no matter the age of its members. We value every member, no matter their age or other limiting circumstances. We believe that each congregation and every member can play a meaningful, important part in what God is doing to make of us a church planting movement.

 
This mission focus keeps all of us aware that the living God is continuing to add to his family and share the life of the Father and Son in the Spirit.

 
Isaiah 40:28-31

 
28 Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom.
29 He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.

 
This involvement in the God, who does not tire or lose interest in his loving purpose to include all in his family, lifts us as a people to put our hope in him.

 
4. This last point is the deepest and most personal. It is described in a prayer by the apostle Paul in

 
Ephesians 3:14-21

 
14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family[a] in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

 
The longer we live the more aware we are of our weaknesses, our mistakes, the fact we still have blind spots to how we affect others. This can cause us to feel a bit fragmented, disconnected and at times alone. But the good news contained in scriptures like this is that God is complete, full and that we can know that we are loved, that we belong and be embraced, at home with God. The fullness of God involves the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

 
Prayer can be the focused awareness of this filling. So as we age, just enjoy God in his fullness, allowing him to embrace you in his acceptance and giving thanks for such a growing knowledge of his love for all of us.

Over 60's