Right now in America, 10,000 people are turning 65 each day. The Baby Boomer generation is peaking and America braces for the need to provide long-term care for millions of elderly people. They are calling those of us born between 1947 and 1964, The Silver Tsunami. As you know, an actual tsunami is a natural disaster that brings with it devastation, havoc and death counts, so this is not a complementary term.
I learned these facts while listening to Episode 73 of Kelly Corrigan Wonders: Love and Old Age: How to be Caring. Though a secular podcast, Kelly’s interview with Atul Gawande and Ai-jen Poo appears on www.pbs.org/kelly and is warm, informative and thought-provoking.
Here are the dates associated with each generation.
- The Greatest Generation (born 1901–1927)
- The Silent Generation (born 1928–1945)
- Baby Boomers (born 1946–1964)
- Generation X (born 1965–1980)
- Millennials, or Gen Y (born 1981–1995)
- Generation Z (born 1996–2010)
- Generation Alpha (born 2011–2025)
What was not talked about in Episode 73, but I happen to know, is that once the Baby Boomer generation passes, the Gen X group that follows is much smaller. Any long-term care facilities for the elderly being built now will have trouble being filled through Gen X until the next large generation arrives on the scene, the Millennials (Gen Y). The waves of gray hair in America ebb and flow between sharp increase, then decrease; sharp increase, then decrease.
How the World Thinks of Gray Hair
In 1900, people lived to be 40, so someone with gray hair was revered because her or she was unique and special to have lived so long. Today, with the advent of modern medicine, people live longer. As our population included increasing numbers of the elderly, we have lost the value once placed upon us by society.
I am not really thrilled about aging for several self-centered reasons. It is difficult to watch supple skin, thin waistlines and healthy hair fade away. This is not my imagination, nor is it negative talk. Such changes are the truth. Even the bible says, Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day (2 Corinthians 4:16). Wasting away; there it is in print. The New Living Translation, often touted for making things sound more palatable, says “though our bodies are dying.”
I feel like I am walking around with an ever greater degree of invisibility in the world’s eyes. My outer body is becoming less noticeable as people disregard the elderly in general. And though my inner self is being renewed day-by-day, that miraculous change is also invisible to anyone passing me by on the street or interacting with me briefly as I am out and about. But God sees the inner self. God sees the transformation He has produced, and He announces triumph for those in old age.
The glory of young men is their strength, gray hair the splendor of the old. (Proverbs 20:29)
Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life. (Proverbs 16:31)
Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. (Isaiah 64:4)
Young on the Inside
As beautiful as these verses are, my current favorite is this one: They will still yield fruit in old age; They shall be full of sap and very green (Psalm 92:14). I have hopes of living long and being found in my old age sharing Jesus and teaching His Word to others as wholeheartedly and energetically as in my youth. In other words, I dream of still yielding fruit in old age. I want to be found “full of sap and very green” on even on my last day.
I don’t know when the Lord will come take me home or when He will come in the clouds with trumpet sound to gather all of His children home at once, but I have had a vision since a very young age of how I hope He finds me. In my imagination I am in a nursing home facility wearing a pale pink polyester suit turning the thin large-print bible pages with aged, deep-veined hands. There is a group of women gathered around and we are enjoying God’s Word together from varying levels of understanding. All are welcome.
In many ways this vision makes no sense. I don’t wear light pink, favor polyester, or dress formally. My adult children are insisting my husband and I will be living in their homes, but the specifics aren’t the point. No matter the end, I want to be found doing Kingdom work when He comes for me.
We are Not a Burden, Nor Broken
To all of us Christ followers with gray hair (even if under hair dye), we are not a tsunami nor a burden to society. We dot the globe with beauty as bright lights for Jesus Christ. And though our bodies may be broken down, we are not broken people. We have the Holy Spirit of God living inside of us and He has been transforming us more into His likeness day by day for decades. We shine.
This week as so many people celebrate romantic love on Valentine’s day, let’s not forget to love the elderly with God’s love. Open doors, say hello, drop off some flowers, or write a note. Do something to treat with value what God treats with value. We do not see as the world sees.
Picture Explanation: I love it when people send me sky pictures. This week my daughter sent some from evening skies in South Carolina and a dear friend shared pictures of a Tennessee sunset. These photos are all taken on the same night from different locations on the earth. The glory is evident from every angle! May we see gray haired folks just as gloriously as God paints sunsets at the end of each day.
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