Today I want to spend a little time with you thinking about the place of friendship  for the senior citizen. As we grow older, as individuals, as people, as children of  God, we discover that there is this thing we call friendship that is very significant  for most of us. It is the rare person who can live the hermit life and, and be well.  

God has made us to have people around us and to enjoy other people. And so  we do well too. As senior ministers, make sure that we are aware of the place of  friendship in the life of the senior citizen. So a question that might come is how  important is it for a senior to have friends. And one of the things that that is that  is true is that forging new friendships during your golden years may require a  little extra effort. It isn't something that just happens. And in sometimes, what we need to do is figure out a way to actually be a friend in order to have a friend. As you get older common life changes such as the loss of a spouse, loss of hearing or vision, retirement. Issues with health mobility can take a toll on your social life and my extent and your well being, because you need to have people around  you with whom you can interact. Loneliness has been linked to a higher risk of  cognitive decline, dementia and depression. It's also been linked to heart  disease and stroke and high blood pressure. In fact, one 2015 study famously  concluded that a lack of social connections was as damaging to a person's  health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, that's three quarters of a pack of  cigarettes every day. Now, if you had a friend who was smoking a pack of  cigarettes or you had an acquaintance, let's take it away from the friend for now,  if you had an acquaintance that was smoking 15 cigarettes a day you tell him,  you know, that's really not very good for you. The same is true. When you see  someone who has no friends, it's just not good for them it is, it is likely that not  having friends, is going to bring on a higher risk of dementia, a higher risk of a  depression in their lives of cognitive decline and decline, they won't be able to,  for example, if you have them working with you, and you say let's let's play  some cards, and they can't remember what which is higher, the ace or the king.  And some of those sorts of things. It's, it's very serious. And so we need to as  senior minister, be aware of who amongst those that we know amongst those  that we ministered to, who can we help to build friendship for because it will be  very important for their well being. And now also research is showing that baby  boomers as a generation are having a difficult time making new friends. For  some reason, we are more comfortable with those who are around us who  already have been our friends, than trying to make a new friend. It's very difficult for some reason we we hesitate. We have problems with that where we're  where it seems burdened with our past and so we can't make a new friend. We  only want those. We're only comfortable with those that we've had around us  before. And now with 2020 COVID. In the lockdown associated with battling it  has destroyed many friendship circles for seniors and they have become so  alone. One of my friends that I was telling you about who's in his 90s Now, when COVID first came along, and he was in assisted living, he had to stay in his 

room by himself and his meal and mail would be delivered to a little, little table  outside his door. And he could, he could open the door to get his meal and mail  but not in person that had to have been set down, and then he could go out and  get it. And this was a man who is just, he is so friendly and outgoing and loves to tell stories and to talk with people. And for him to be locked down in what I called solitary confinement just had to be an extremely difficult part of how he was  living and what he could possibly do with himself. Now, as I have experienced  life, I found the little meme to be accurate. Life is like an elevator on your way  up, sometimes you have to stop and let some people off. And what I take that to  mean is that there are people in our lives with whom we'll never actually be  friends, and to try to build a relationship with that particular person just doesn't  work. We we're too different, or we have too much past history or, or one thing  or another. But then this individual put so much stress in our life, that in order for us to be healthy, in order for us to be able to experience life with some joy, we  need to let some people off the elevator. So that those who are left that we can  interact with and enjoy ourselves. But then when he says, Can we urge too  many people to get off the elevator? Should we be? Should we be so selective  about who we interact with? That we end up with just a couple of people  because then we have problems making more friends? Again, it's it's really a  delicate problem. And as senior ministers, I would encourage you to think about  how can you help people deal with the stressful people in their lives, and  probably not have them interact so much. But also be sure that there are people who are replacing them that are more conducive to a good relationship. And just because somebody can't get along with with Person A doesn't mean that they  can't get along with anyone. Person B relates very well to a person, such as  what this one is that people are shying away from. And as one ages, there's  different priorities that that we have. The older we get, the more likely it is that  we're going to be looking for people who who share something with us in terms  of our likes and dislikes. I know one individual who really enjoys it's a it's a once  or twice a year outing that some organization puts together and they take a bus  trip for a cup to a place couple hours away. And they attend a wonderful show.  That's in a place that provides Christian shows. And it's just a wonderful thing  and and he just loves it and going with others to that because they like three  busloads of people. So they're all there. They all share a common desire to be  going to this place and to then to have dinner at this place. And then to enjoy the show. Of course COVID has stopped that but hopefully it'll it'll get back going  again. But that's different priorities sometimes. The others would say, I couldn't  bear to get on a bus and drive for a couple hours and then I have to sit with  these people and have to have dinner with them. Okay, that's fine. You don't  have to do that. But for those who do enjoy it, that's a wonderful opportunity.  Differing priorities. One is not right, and the other wrong is just different. And In  my own life, I discovered that aging means I no longer have to put up with 

people I simply can't stand you know, and I just, I don't need to do that I have  put up with people I couldn't stay in all my life. As a pastor, I always had people  that that just were so aggravating, but I needed to interact with them, I need to  be their pastor. I've had, you know, elders that that were very cantankerous, and I needed to interact with them and, and be cordial with them. But you know, now hat I'm retired, I'm not pastor of a church, I don't have to put up with people, I  really can't stand. I don't like bullies in the church. And so I don't need to be  someone who says, Well, I have to deal with them. I can love them as Christ  called me to do. I just don't have to like them. And as I'm getting older, I decided  I don't need to like everybody, because there are some personality traits that I  simply don't need to have around me anymore. I've put up with them. And I've  interacted with them. And I've loved them. I've attempted to like them for  decades. But now in my senior years, I just don't feel like I have to like them and have them in my circles. I still love them. I still think they're wonderful children of  God, but their personality and mine just conflict. And so I have decided there's  some people I don't have to put up with anymore. Now one of the things that I  think is important for us to realize also is that the one source of intimacy that  comes with being good friends, is the intimacy, intimacy, experience and  friendship with God. John 15, records, Jesus words you are my friends, if you do whatever I command you, and this is goes on. This is my command to love one  another. And being able to do that we experience in that in that time, in that in  that activity of loving each other, we experience the love of God as well, the  friendship of God, that intimacy with God that is so wonderful and, and our soul  is enriched because of what these other people do for us when we love them.  And as they love us back. It's just a tremendous blessing. And as senior  ministers we can have the privilege of deepening someone's walk with God as  we love them as they love us back. It's a it's a beautiful, beautiful thing the way  God created us to have fellowship with Him, while we have fellowship with one  another. Because then we bring the holy, preserving wonder filled presence of  God, to the people we care about to the people that we love, it is it is such a  marvelous thing for us to be able to experience that holy preserving wonder  filled presence of our God as as we love each other. Psalmist as, as we we've  seen this particular deck before I found this, I thought I gotta run this in here as  well. We will not hide these truths from our children who will tell the next  generation about the glorious deeds of the Lord. And that's one of the places  where we can have friendship with friendship with God as we talk about God as  we encourage the next generation, to seek the Lord with all their heart. That is a  place for us to to find as we're senior citizens to find joy and grace. It doesn't  have to be just our kids. It's a wonderful opportunity to be able to interact with  young people of all sorts and to have them be be able to interact with us. Young  people want to want to know older people. They want to know them in such a  way that it's looked at as a friendship instead of as the elderly, always telling 

them what to do, sort of thing. And we as those who have walked with God for  some time Can, can bring grace and mercy and healing, even into a young  person's life so that they can, they can grow more in the knowledge of God as  they walk with him. There was a study done among older folks that indicate guys actually have more friends when they're older than when they find themselves in the hustle and bustle of middle age. And I think that's the reason for that is  because it'll because, guys, when they're there, they're working when they're  pursuing their careers. They just don't have that much time. For friendship. They instead they're, they're raising their families. They're, they're trying to find time  for work, a little bit of recreation to keep themselves in better physical condition,  and so on, so on, hustle, bustle. But as guys retire, they have more time, time  just to be together to be present with each other. In one thing, you might ask  yourself, I wonder what constitutes friendship among older guys. And as you  minister to them, that will be a question that that would be good for you to  ponder what what is it that is actually friendship among these older guys. The  book buddy system, which is based on on the author's research for more than  300 men and 100 women found that across their lifespan men's friendship, tend  to be shoulder to shoulder encounters, those men might watch a game together  and catch up during the commercials. Well, women generally construct  friendships around face to face encounters. And because women share more  emotional content in person, these friendships require more maintenance,  demanding relations that aren't fulfilling, can take a real hit as we age. Where if  we have to put in a lot of our emotional energy into this relationship, the  likelihood of our not pursuing it and just kind of shying away from it begins to  become much more real. Because we just can't we just can't do it anymore. We  don't have enough strength, we don't have enough emotional wherewithal. And  so one finds finds us doing things that are are difficult to understand. Now older  adults, the seniors you may be ministering to are afraid of one thing more than  anything else. And that being left alone, of having no friends of having no  opportunity to get to know someone else. But just always, the thought of ending  up alone is very, very frightening. And as we get older then making new friends,  it's difficult. We're less active, we can't hear as well, we experience experienced  depression. And so we don't want to hang around with other people. It's it's one  of those things that is really challenging. And so the thing we fear becomes  something that we actually are kind of building into our own experience. And so  it's important for us to realize, as senior ministers that we need to help people in  this situation, we need to help them get out of where they are so that they can  get to a better place. And so, as a minister seniors you can help overcome that  feeling. You can even be a friend yourself. Be a person to organize in small  group activities. Be the encourager, a person needs. A recent study published in  the Journal of Social personal relations found that takes roughly 50 hours for  someone to move from a mere acquaintance to a casual friend. It takes 90 

hours to go to simple friend status. And more than 200 hours before you can  consider someone your close friend. And when, when we think about that, we  discover that there's not that many people with whom we would, we would have  in our lives that we would consider a close friend, there's so few people that we  would end up spending 200 hours with, we don't want to, we don't care too. As  senior citizens, it's really a problem. And so I would encourage you also as  senior ministers, to do whatever you can to help people have opportunity to  interact. And to be able to have something more than a casual acquaintance or  a casual friend, it to go to a friend status, you know, a friend, a friend, who is  who cries when you leave. But fake friends leave when you cry, is the meme  that is on an illustration. And I think that's really so they don't want to know about what's going on in your heart, they just would rather not. And so we need to  keep working at helping people get at least to the friend status, and if possible,  even to have a close friend. Some suggestions for seniors who are feeling  lonely that that you as a senior minister would probably be able to facilitate is to  help them volunteer in the community or to have a favorite charity. Maybe they  can visit a senior citizen center and participate in social groups that others  schedule activities there. Senior centers, are centers are an important part of  living life to the full in many communities in their senior centers that are available all over the place. Join a group that's focused on a topic or activity you enjoy  such as card games or book club it's it's a good way to interact with people  around something that you enjoy yourself. Others can join a fitness centers stay  physically fit and engage with others we could be participate in a neighborhood  or a community group. Play group sport like bocce ball, go golfing, bowling, play  croquet, so many things that are able to be done where we can get to know  people a little better, because we're spending a little more time with them. And  that's what's so important. And so when we are serving as senior ministers, we  need to be able to help people find those activities that that work for them. So  we're social creatures. God made us to be in community and as a senior  minister, you can do all those things as well along with the senior person, be the  one who holds their hands when they may be fearful. Be a person of faith who  knows that God saw that it was not good for the man to be alone. Friends are an integral part of our experience of our humanity. And as a senior minister, do all  you can to assist in making sure that the seniors that you care about have a  friend or two. Take care, we'll catch you next time.

Last modified: Wednesday, January 10, 2024, 9:48 AM