“You shall rise up before the gray headed, and honor the aged, and you shall revere your God; I am the Lord.” –Leviticus 19:32
Independence is certainly something one should not take for granted, yet many of us live day after day impaired only by the typical minor ailments of humanity, such as a headache, cold or flu virus, or various forms of arthritic aches and pains. Many people are not so fortunate as to reach their retirement years without something more debilitating affecting their life.
So what happens when the unexpected happens? A major car accident leaves a middle aged women crippled from the waist down, a cerebral stroke causes paralysis in the left extremities, the early onset of Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s creates cognitive impairments requiring assistance with the simplest of daily tasks.
Sadly our society today promotes the philosophy of ageism. The idea that putting our elders and infirmed in a facility to waste away their final days is a common practice among those who are still young enough to be working full time but have the responsibility of dependent adult family members. As Christians we know that this is not God’s plan.
Dependent adults in our society have a multitude of needs. Many dependent adults require around the clock care, while others can function at a level where caregivers schedule their interactions for only the most difficult tasks. In all cases of dependency, socialization is often lacking and deterioration of physical, cognitive, spiritual and emotional levels are inevitable if motivation to achieve certain goals isn’t encouraged on a regular basis.
Adult Daycare Programs
One way we can reach out and make a difference in our community is to sponsor an Adult Daycare Program. This program allows dependent adults the chance to socialize, interact with peers, and enjoy getting out of their home environment in a safe, caring, nurturing place several times each week.
The program should be flexible enough to allow individuals with various levels of physical and cognitive disability to have meaningful interactions. The program should encourage physical mobility through group classes that improve strength and balance or ambulation and exercise with supervision. Other therapeutic activities include playing games, singing, art work, cooking or other basic skills that maintain or improve cognitive awareness. Volunteers are encouraged to participate by sharing their skills such as crafting or woodwork, music, pet therapy, or just interact and socialize. Participants’ enjoy and appreciate having companionship with staff, volunteers, and peers.
Although our text points out that one attribute of old age is gray headedness, not everyone who needs an Adult Day Program is a senior. Certainly those with gray hair are worthy of dignity and respect, but I believe God also would have us include those who have had severe trauma at an early age resulting in being dependent on others for their entire lives. People who have been blind since birth, those with developmental disabilities, or individuals with traumatic brain injury are in great need of regular therapy and are highly prone to depression and lack of motivation.
Adult Day Programs can help these, and other dependent adults maintain dignity in their lives, have hope to live each day, and fulfill a sense of security in knowing that someone cares about them.
Giving Eternal Hope to Others
The Old Testament history of the Bible is filled with stories about people living for hundreds of years. Generation after generation the needs of the parents fell on the eldest son in each family. It wasn’t until after the flood that the human life span began to diminish, the family unit began to break down and in recent generations people have lived shorter life spans and are often without any form of family support system. Because of this we have the opportunity to become a surrogate family to those around us.
In society today we may hear people ask “What are the ethical requirements in caring for the aged or infirmed?” Members of God’s family we may also ask “What are God’s plans concerning our life span?” Will we believe like the Theist who says “God owes me long life because I’m good”, or the humanist who says “It’s all up to me to ensure my own long life by taking care of myself”. Or will we respond like the fatalist who says “It’s all set – I’m doomed!” Hopefully we will be anchored in truth and realize that all of these answers are wrong because they only deal with the physical, our life in the fleshly body.
For those who believe, the promises God has given us in his word are reliable. We have a responsibility to care for ourselves as we are partners with God concerning the quality of our lives, and as we journey through life there will certainly be factors outside our control which impact us. But as a Christian we should respond to the question, “What is God’s plan concerning our life span?” by giving eternal hope to others. God’s plan for us is to live forever.
Interestingly enough, women live an average of 3-6 years longer than men. This may be due in part to the fact that woman more often than not live by Jesus’ words “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” A study reported in USA Today under the title “Generous spirit may yield generous life span,” pointed out that social contact yields a longer life, and specifically the kind of contact where the person is giving, helping, and supporting on a day-to-day basis.
Giving Hope in Your Community
Caring, helping, supporting the aged, the impaired, and the socially deprived is part of our mission at the Penn Valley Seventh-day Adventist Church. It is the action part of Jesus’ command to care for the weak and the sick. Our Adult Day Program, called “Helping Hands,” currently serves about 25 families with dependent adults in our community.
My appeal to you is to consider how you will rise up and honor God by giving hope to dependent adults in your community. There are many ways to participate; volunteer a few hours a month at an Adult Day Program or Long Term Care Facility, give a regular donation or help with fundraisers, tell others about local programs and their benefits, and pray.
God will use these programs to reach people in ways nothing else ever will and my purpose in directing the daily business of our Adult Day Program is to serve mankind the way Christ did. God’s ultimate plan for all of us is to live a long, productive life filled with honor and with dignity.
May God bless each of us as we endeavor to share this good news with the community around us.
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