Attention! The Elderly May Be Listening

The following story may remind readers that the aging body can often be accompanied by a surprisingly clear mind — and human dignity as well.

In this story, an elderly man of great wealth suffered from some of the physical effects of aging, and in particular, from hearing loss.

He sat in the family room much of the time, eyes usually cast down, while his household buzzed with the comings and goings of two succeeding generations. He took little part in the conversations, largely because family members seldom made the effort to include him.

One day he learned about a hearing specialist in a nearby city who had developed a simple procedure to greatly improve the hearing of his elderly patients.

The wealthy man made an appointment and had the procedure done.

He returned to his home to resume his position in the family room — eyes still cast down and sitting in silence amidst the sea of chatter that washed back and forth constantly.

When he returned to the physician’s clinic six weeks later he was asked if his hearing had improved. He replied, “It certainly has, and I’ve changed my will three times.”

For ancient Israel, respect for the elderly was a holiness issue. It is addressed in the holiness code found in Leviticus 19 along with the sins of defrauding a neighbor and spreading slander.

Late in that chapter we learn that where the elderly are involved, the Lord is watching. Leviticus 19:32 says, “Rise in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God; I am Jehovah.”

For Christians both young and old, this admonition doesn’t necessarily mean that we literally stand as in days of old. It does instruct us, however, to respect in appropriate ways those who are elderly and frail, because the Lord God is observing the degree of our respect.

And people around us are, too. Taking the extra effort to respect and include the elderly will bring grace to relationships and a powerful witness to society at large of God’s work in our lives.

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Photo credit: Ilmicrofono Oggiono (via flickr.com)

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