As a culture we are often uncertain how to approach aging, both for ourselves and how we treat the aged in our midst. Retirement often accompanies a withdrawal form “normal” life and old age often brings a withdrawal from community altogether (often reluctantly, but not always).
My grandma turned 90 this year. In the midst of a culture that often devalues their elders, this story of my grandparent’s ongoing experience of life and faith and community is inspiring:
When Jake and Elsie Bergen retired to Winnipeg in 1995, they immediately looked for ways to connect. “We tried something that had proven to be successful in other places: we placed an ad in the local newspaper offering our services for odd jobs, like cutting the grass or housework. It was very satisfying to share with people our reasons for serving,” says Jake. Until 1999, they served with Good Neighbours Active Living Centre, a non-profit that connects older adults with services and friends.
Now, Jake and Elsie participate in the prayer room of the Billy Graham telephone ministry, a care group, Sunday morning prayer times, and the church prayer chain. They make many personal visits, sharing the Bible and Elsie’s home-baked bread. In 2007, Jake received training through Hospice and Palliative Care Manitoba in preparation for visiting patients. “Afterwards they invited me to sign up as on official visitor, but I didn’t because they limited what I could say and ask.” Instead he became a volunteer chaplain/visitor for Mennonite Church Manitoba. “Here, I am free to discuss the Lord. I go weekly to Riverview Health Centre [a facility for rehabilitation, palliative, and long-term care], and to Concordia Hospital monthly.”
“Elsie makes friends very easily,” says Jake. “She can talk to anyone. God gave me a great gift when he gave me her. I have learned an awful lot from her. We live in a big apartment [block] where there are a lot of opportunities for us to make friends and it is important that we share our friendship.”
Did I mention she just turned 90!?!
(Story courtesy of the Mennonite Brethren Herald)