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Aging With Community During Isolation

My mother dragged me to church every Sunday. My Sunday school class was in a small room in the basement. This is really where I came to abhor lateness… because we always were. Inevitably the group of about 5 plus students were interrupted by my arrival every single time. It just couldn’t be done quietly and without notice. Everything stopped until I was seated. The teacher would look at me with that weak smile half welcoming me and half showing his annoyance. I didn’t blame him a bit. Yet I’d be totally embarrassed Sunday after Sunday. Today I am so grateful to my mother, lateness or not.

I expect that most people we meet in our lives don’t and won’t ever go to church except perhaps on Christmas or Easter fulfilling that obligatory yearly attendance. But if they don’t go, or even if only annually, how else will they hear the Good News? That’s the best reason of all not to hide our Light under a bushel. We may well be the only example of a Christian, Christian behaviour and Christian values that many will ever know. This is a huge responsibility. We are each influencers, a popular buzz word just now, one way or the other. I’ve said it before, it matters how you show up in the world, it matters tremendously.

“No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house.” CSB Matthew 5:15

Who is in your house just now? Perhaps it is just you because of covid restrictions. But being a light has no restrictions, no expiration date. Jesus’ admonition of “go into all the world and preach the gospel” (Mark 16), applies to all ages.

Seniors, in many ways we are each trailblazers to our family and friends. You are being watched. Your children, grandchildren and friends all take note of what you say and do, how you act and react. You are setting an example of what aging may look like for them so make sure it is an example you are proud of and one pleasing to the Lord.

Your world, your community, is the circle of family and friends around you and indeed you have a great impact on them, either positively or negatively. One way or the other they are taking in all that you say or do. Even if you are home alone during this period someone in your community needs you…and you need them.

Conversely, consider for a moment who had the most influence on you and when. I loved being with my aunts and uncles and cousins which we often were, but I attended church on Tuesday night Bible study, choir practice Thursday, Youth on Friday and/or Saturday for a special event, and twice on Sunday. I saw these same people at least 4 times a week or more. This was my community. This was where we shared a common belief system, where I was most influenced, where I was most impacted.

When we are very young there is a stage of development when parents have all the influence on their child. Later there are stages when we are more influenced by others as we shift away from our parents. I remember when my boys were in high school the trend was all about wearing Levi or Wrangler jeans. If they wore no name, less expensive, generic ones, their friends quickly let them know. They could be quite embarrassed as a result begging me to buy up.

All this aside, influencer or being influenced, we are currently in a season of isolation, our community literally gone. For the aged, this can be devastating. We long to be connected but simply can’t be during this time. Social isolation can birth serious mental and physical effects. Loneliness, the outcome of social isolation, can add to poor health and distress. 30% of Canadian seniors are at risk of becoming socially isolated…and that was as of May 2021. It must be higher now. Covid has exacerbated the issue. This is a serious but underestimated public health risk. Many seniors went from being socially active to sitting quietly at home alone, no one in or out. That’s a very dramatic life change. What can we do?

Take heart. There are concrete steps we can take to navigate these waters. We must take control and initiate our own plan of action. We just can’t watch as the storm rages, frightened, sinking deeper into despair wondering about our fate. You may feel tired and weak, fed-up and discouraged but you can and you must take charge. I cannot overemphasize how vital this is. It is indeed a battle and we must soldier on!

The first thing we must do is pray for ourselves. We must ask our Father to open our hearts so that we feel his continuous presence and to open our eyes so that we may see and initiate personal changes we need to make in order to get through this season. You are not alone.

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

Become a person of routine. Now may be a good time to create your personal daily schedule….and stick to it. A routine provides comfort and security. The sameness can be reassuring and satisfying knowing we can hold tight or maybe even move forward toward accomplishing our goals with baby steps. The size of the goal doesn’t matter. A schedule provides focus and distraction from our problems. Even small steps forward are super beneficial and fulfilling.

Reach out to others, regularly. This is where you must really take charge and be the lead…for your own wellbeing. You may find this daunting, totally out of your comfort zone, but the effort will be worth it. Do it anyway!

I know you have heard it before but develop an interest. Take up something new. Do your research and then simply begin. Delve into something you have always wanted to do or know about. The world is amazing! There is so much to learn and learning keeps you engaged. I know you miss having your community around you. So do I, but I intentionally keep busy with all sorts of things to distract me until we can meet in person again.

Play some worship music each day. This feeds your soul and keeps one grounded.

Get to know your pc better. That may sound a bit counterintuitive when folks spend so much time, perhaps too much, online these days but for seniors it can be a lifeline. There is always more to learn right within your grasp. Call someone in your community and ask them to teach you more about navigating to the sites you are interested in. Walk through it together over the phone. For example, do you know you can take that trip you’ve always wanted or take a cooking course…virtually? You can hone that skill or even earn that degree. And there are how to videos on just about anything you can think of.

And, here is a wonderful idea absolutely anyone can do from a new friend of mine. You can do this even if you don’t own a computer. Write a letter of encouragement to your friends and family members regularly. These times are tough on just about everyone and anyone would appreciate an uplifting letter in their mailbox I’m sure. You can shine your Light through your pen!

Your community may not be available just now but they will be one day again soon. This season of isolation won’t last forever. Be aware though that being home so much just now can in itself lead to a reluctance to resume our community activities when this is all over. Do not settle into this and become complacent about meeting together again when we can safely. This is a pitfall we can easily slip into so be vigilant.

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another…” Hebrews 10: 24-25

Therefore, when we can get back to our family and friends jump into your community with both feet! Be an outstanding influencer! But for now, take charge and take control-reach out! Now more than ever take heart and let your Light shine even from your sofa! Yes you can!

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