How People in the Third Third of Life Reflect on Aging

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This article is part of The Third Third of Life Toolkit—a collection of resources for ministry to and with people ages 55 and over, brought to you by two ministries of the Christian Reformed Church in North America: Disability Concerns and Faith Formation Ministries.

What do people in the third third of life have to say about aging? The answers vary widely, but there are common themes. Though aware of the losses they face, many people ages 55 and above reflect on the importance of attitude, of keeping their eyes on God, and of remaining connected to other people. These resources will help us all hear their voice.

Articles

  • The Not-So-Golden Years. This beautiful article by Andrew Kuyvenhoven is an honest reflection on the losses that come with getting older, mixed with both humorous and painful observations.

  • Why We Can’t Tell the Truth about Aging. Arthur Krystal challenges what he calls “the optimistic narrative of pro-aging writers” and injects a dose of realism into the conversation while providing a wealth of links to interesting resources.

  • The Changing Role of the Elderly in Society. Robert Ritzema makes connections between the individualism of our society and the way the generations are separated. He challenges Christians to question the status quo and to remain connected to people in other generations, both in the family and in church communities. 

  • In A Reflection on Aging, CRC Executive Director Colin Watson reminds us that all people, regardless of age, are called to serve God.

  • What It’s Really Like to Grow Old: Challenged Not Threatened. A New Zealand study reveals that most 85-plus people do a good job of managing their own health and that attitude is crucial to health and well-being.

  • Erikson, in His Own Old Age, Expands His View of Life. In 1950, Erik and Joan Erikson created a much-respected psychological model of the human life cycle. As they both near the age of 90, they deliver new thoughts on how the lessons learned at each stage of life can ripen into wisdom in old age. 

Books

  • The Adventure of Ascent. Luci Shaw, now in her eighties, reflects on nature, love, death, suffering, loss, faith, doubt, creativity, curiosity, lifelong learning—all of it drawn from the breadth of her own experience. 

  • Women Rowing North—Mary Pipher, author of Reviving Ophelia, offers a timely look at the cultural and developmental issues women face as they age. She concludes that most older women are deeply happy and filled with gratitude for the gifts of life. You can listen to an NPR interview with the author here.

Videos and DVDs

  • Dare to Question the Fear of Getting Older argues for the need for elders in our society. 

  • How to Age Gracefully. People ages 7 through 93 offer words of wisdom to their younger counterparts. This comical video can help spark a conversation about what words of wisdom you might like to offer to people younger than you. 

  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. This film presents the story of a man who ages in reverse. The story examines many of our stereotypes about appearance and aging and challenges viewers to look at the essence of who we are as humans. The movie is based on a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

 FOR THOUGHT OR DISCUSSION

  • Meeting with a group of third-thirders? Watch one of the first two videos, then take turns sharing your own reflections on aging.

QUESTIONS?

If you’re part of the Christian Reformed Church in North America and you have questions about how to strengthen your church’s ministry to and with people in the third third of life, one of Faith Formation Ministries’ Regional Catalyzers would love to talk with you about ideas and strategies.

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