By Pam Rainey
Not all Seniors Are Socializing
Have you ever gone to visit a senior adult to cheer her up, only to discover you were the one uplifted?
Perhaps the person you intended to encourage may have been going through stages of an incurable illness, or perhaps he was recovering from minor surgery. It makes no difference. His countenance and uplifting words to you no doubt came from a contented and happy heart and brought you joy.
However, not all senior adults are engaging with other people.
With declining years, many seniors have experienced heartbreaks, such as losing a spouse or outliving their friends.
Others have grown lonely because their families have either moved many miles away or, even though they live nearby, are too busy with their own complicated lives to stop in often for even a short visit.
According to Senior Living Blog posted by Sarah Stevenson (May 2017), eleven million or twenty-eight percent of people aged sixty-five and older lived alone at the time of the last census.
Preying on the Lonely
One of the silent and subtle schemes lonely senior adults fall prey to is the deceptive marketing practices of casinos.
While their addiction may start out as an innocent way for them to spend an afternoon with friends, one trip to a casino can lead to two, then three, then more, and the well laid trap is set, and the older adult is caught.
Before long their hard earned savings are gone.
Many casinos send buses to transport seniors from the town in which they live. When they arrive, they are provided free food, drinks, and lodging. While they are there, they are not lonely because there are many new acquaintances with which to temporarily socialize. The casino is an almost perfect experience. The only thing that is not perfect is the money they lose in the slot machines.
Oh, they may win a buck or two. But the losses are bitter and unaffordable.
This is a well-organized strategy aimed at a vulnerable generation preyed upon by marketers who know exactly what they are doing.
In an article, “The Casino Trap,” by John Rosengren, in the AARP Bulletin (October 2016), a distressing account was given of a well set gambling trap that ruined a man and his wife.
The couple began making a 2 1/2 hour drive from his home to a casino every Friday. He won occasionally but lost more frequently. In one year, he lost about $50,000. Over four years the slots drained more than $100,000 from him—all his savings. He still kept playing. Afterwards he cashed in a life insurance policy, took cash advances out of his credit card, and gambled away the Social Security checks meant to pay his utility bills. Finally, in 2008, the gambling habit took their home.
There are many other unhealthy ways in which senior adults cope with loneliness and grief. However, Scripture promises many blessings to the aged who rely on God for guidance and comfort.
We can all be triumphant over temptations that take our eyes off His goodness and tempt us to react in corrupt ways. Whatever our age or circumstance, we are reminded: “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (Eph 6:13).
A Practical Way of Coping with Loneliness: Service
Instead of coping with loneliness by going to a casino, Christian senior adults can find meaningful fellowship by serving in church.
We cannot turn on a television or listen to our children or grandchildren for long without becoming aware of how desperately our world is crying for wisdom.
Christian seniors have so much knowledge to offer our younger generation.
Through experiences of wars, raising families, losing loved ones, and difficult financial times, seniors have witnessed firsthand God’s unfailing love, guidance, and goodness. It would be a shame for older people not to share with young Christians how difficult times helped them grow stronger in their faith.
An eighty-year-old widow, Pearl, moved from Mississippi to our town to be with her daughter. She joined our church and asked the pastor how she could serve the Lord there. He later told the congregation that, due to her age, he wasn’t sure Pearl would be up to helping with children, but he reluctantly suggested she assist with the Vacation Bible School that started the next evening. Even on short notice, Pearl was eager to help.
Our daughter, only ten years old at the time, and normally quiet and not very expressive, bounced to our car the first night after Vacation Bible School was dismissed and excitedly told my husband and me about “Miss Pearl” who was her VBS table leader. I asked her what was so special about her new teacher. She thought for a moment and said, “Miss Pearl has such a sweet face, and I know she loves me very much.”
Mighty insightful observation from a child.
Pearl lived for a year-and-a-half after that. Upon her death, a visitation was held by her family at the local funeral home before holding her burial in Mississippi. The funeral home was filled that night with friends who came to remember her and offer sympathy to the family.
Since Pearl was new in our town, she no longer felt comfortable driving an automobile. But she didn’t let a little thing like that get in the way of helping others. Her daughter took her to church, and a new friend she met at church volunteered to drive her to several worthwhile places she was asked to volunteer.
I suppose the local folks who came to honor Pearl and minister to the family had met Pearl’s kind face during the year-and-a-half she lived in her new hometown and had come to know she loved them very much just as our daughter did.
When I think of Pearl, I am reminded of what Jesus said: “A new commandment I give to you,that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (John 13:34).
Seniors are not exempted from that command. And loving the members of your church is a wonderful way for lonely seniors to engage with others.
A Doctrinal Way to Cope with Loneliness: God’s Promises
I must admit I’ve cried out to God asking why He has allowed sickness to intrude my body as it grows older.
I’ve been guilty of not helping out when needed because I didn’t feel very well.
There also have been times my faith has been shaken when I look at our meager retirement savings and ask God if my husband and I will outlast our money.
Then I remind myself—God’s Word is true, and He has never forsaken our family.
I’m so ashamed of myself when I worry. God, true to His Word, has always taken care of our family. A good passage for me to remember is: “Your life should be free from the love of money.Be satisfied with what you have, for He Himself has said, I will never leave you or forsake you” (Heb 13:5, HCSB).
Focusing on God’s promises located in the Bible corrects my steps when I fall into any temptation of sin.
Pam Rainey is a native of Columbus, GA and has lived in Denton, TX, for 45 years. She was a licensed real estate agent for 18 years.