In my general experience, we are a death-denying, age-defying society. We avoid conversations about aging and death like the plague and our fear of aging and older adults is evident in the way our health and assistance programs serve America’s aged.
Conversations about aging are important. Here are some suggestions for how to address the topic of aging with an older adult – be they friend, family member, parishioner, neighbor, etc.
Did you have a vision when you were younger about what your experience of aging would be like?
How is your experience of aging like that vision? How is it different?
What is your definition of “the rest of your life?” Do you place a limit on how many years you think you have left?
Does that affect how you make decisions about the kind of quality you want your life to have as you go throughout your years here on earth, however many they might be?
Tell me about your experience of aging so far.
How could your experience of aging be better?
How can I be supportive in your experience of aging?
What do you make of your life right now? Where do you find your purpose? What gives you meaning?
How can I better help you frame your experience of aging, spiritually?
What does aging mean to your faith life?
Has becoming older enriched your spiritual life?
Has society’s avoidance of talk about aging and death hindered your spiritual life in any way?
Tell me about that.
What thoughts do you have on how the church can be a supportive presence in the lives of the aging?
How can the church be your advocate? How can the church facilitate or draw attention to the need for hard conversations?
What do you like to be called as an older person? “Senior adult?” “Elder?” “An elderly person?” “An old person?”
Are there words that are applied to the aged that get under your skin? Are there words applied to the aged that are very offensive to you?
Do you feel alone in your experience of aging?
Do you feel misunderstood in your experience of aging?
What would you like people to understand most about aging, what it’s like, how you’d like to be supported, etc.?
Would you like to say more about that?
Each of these questions is structured to invited further dialogue, so grab a coffee and jump right in!