Thoughts on Aging

Thoughts on Aging February 28, 2024

My dad turned 76 last week and it really put things into perspective for me. I suspect I will have my dad around for at least 12 more years, given his dad hung around till his late 80’s and my grandma died at 91.  

As a pastor, I have assisted many families through the dying process, to think about this for my family, it seems incomprehensible. With both my mom and dad and my in laws, we have been having the talk about estates for a couple of years now.  

The “Oreo” Generation 

I am now in what is known as the “Oreo generation”. This is a time when one is squeezed between the needs of adult children and aging parents. Also known as the sandwich generation, this is the period of time when middle aged individuals divide their time caring for aging adult parents and raising their own children. While my parents and my in laws are still able and independent, the worry has increased some over the last few years.  

For some families I have worked with, the challenges of getting aging parents to appointments, care for their own children and maintaining a full-time job can be insurmountable. The stress can lead to anxiety, depression, couples concerns and financial issues.  

Some statistics for the Sandwich Generation (Fleming, 2022): 

Over 40 million people work as unpaid caregivers for someone age 65 or older. 

Caregivers in the sandwich generation experience exhaustion, stress, and depression caring for kids and elderly parents. 

It’s critical that caregivers find ways to decompress and support their mental health. 

 Memento Mori 

Our modern society has a weird relationship with aging. Up to thirty years ago, it was believed that older people could not exercise or engage in physical activity. One of the many things that started me on my fitness journey was an advertisement in a health magazine. In this advertisement was an old man holding a baby. The marketing line was this: “You are born weak and defenseless, and you will die weak and defenseless, how you look in between is up to you.” 

The Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius had a different relationship with death.  

Marcus Aurelius writes in his Meditations: 

“Loss is nothing else but change, and change is Nature’s delight.” Your parents are changing, as is your relationship with them. This is a natural part of life’s flow, a chance for you to demonstrate your love and respect in a different manner. 

Aurelius grew to be an old man after tasting the sting of death. In his lifetime, he would lose his parents at an early age, several of his children and his empire experienced a tragic flood and subsequent famine after food stores and crops were ruined. 

On aging, Seneca offers us these words: 

“Life is divided into three periods, past present and future. Of these, the present is short, the future is doubtful, the past is certain. For this last is the one over which Fortune has lost her power, which cannot be brought back to anyone’s control. But this is what preoccupied people lose: for they have no time to look back at their past, and even if they did, it is not pleasant to recall activities they are ashamed of.” 

Faith and Aging 

The Calypso prophet, Jimmy Buffett once sung that the wrinkles only go where the smiles have been. Our faith can age with us and sometimes this can be a stressor especially when loved ones and friends leave us.  

Our faith like our minds change as we get older. For years, I have applied the developmental theories of faith posited by James Fowler and John Westerhoff who suggest that our faith goes through periods of development much like we do when we go through cognitive development. Fowler proposes seven stages of faith and Westerhoff four. For the sake of this discussion, I will look at Westerhoff’s  

Westerhoff’s owned faith stage and owning and accepting one’s aging body.  

Westerhoff’s last stage of faith development looks at the owned stage of faith. In this last stage of develop which is rarely reached before adulthood, one will or may experience profound doubts that will or can lead to profound enlightenment. I have seen this paralleled with the several existential crises individuals go through in their thrities and late fifties.  

Once one arrives at this stage, our faith becomes our own, not just the faith of our parents or even the one prescribed to us as children. Doubts may remain, but we begin to own this faith and witness to it through personal and social actions. In this stage, one becomes a mature disciple of Jesus.  

In this article from Patheos, I found that the author here talks about spiritual sickness. This is what happens when we get stuck not only in affirming our age, but when we fail to move into a mature faith by rigidly allowing ourselves to ask questions: 

A line that I really enjoyed from this article was the one that simply stated, “I like getting older.” I think it has been fun. Waking up in my forties after a six-hour weekend of training has unique challenges on Mondays that I did not experience when I was in my twenties. The curiosity of wondering who my kids will be once they are done living at home with mom and dad has been fun. And getting to know my wife now after years of being a parenting couple has been a blessing.  

 Aging and Anxiety 

Erik Erikson notes that the elder years begin around fifty-five with a shift in development. He calls this time a time of integrity vs. despair. It is a time of self-reflection, did I do a great job, or are there regrets? A lighthearted notion that came out a few years ago was about  phenomenon of the seenager: 

There are freedoms that come with elderhood, maybe you have saved up a sizable pension or retirement, you are working less and maybe visiting grandkids or traveling more. But there is also anxiety. The statistics for the elderly display increases in anxiety and depression. It is normal and part of the experience of getting older and eventually saying goodbye.  


Fleming , L. (2022, May 22). Caregivers Caught in the Middle—How the Overworked Sandwich Generation Can Cope. Very Well Mind. Retrieved February 26, 2024, from 

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