This recent Washington Post article highlights an idea foreign to the majority of us living in Western culture. Dr. Bill Thomas contends, “…there is a ‘third’ phase of life beyond adulthood that can be as rich as either of the phases that came before.” This idea has implications for the church – if only we have ears to hear.
For those interested in nurturing spiritual growth and development throughout every phase of life, and some of those who work with aging populations, these words are more affirmation than revelation. But since too many see old age (mid-sixties and up, with a hazy division between “young-old” and “old-old” hitting at about seventy-five) as a slow, Depends-dependent slide toward decay and death. Dr. Thomas sees it differently:
For the past two years, he has traveled the country on a mission to raise public consciousness — strumming a guitar and presenting a stage show that touts a “post-adulthood” period when age and experience are associated with enrichment rather than decrepitude.
He believes that his generation, which reinvented what it means to be young, should now be reinventing what it means to grow old. “We need to get people out of hospitals, we need to create a rich set of community-based alternatives.” In essence, he argues, the goal is “normalizing the entire lifespan instead of separating and stigmatizing one part as something different.”
Instead, he sees too many baby boomers clinging to tropes that no longer serve them.
“It’s very American language — ‘You’re as young as you feel, and I feel like I’m 22 years old.’ That’s not good, that’s not right . . . and the reason it’s wrong is it doesn’t allow you to be who you are.”
Too many churches have bought what our culture is selling when it comes to the way we approach aging. [Read more]