“These are the best years of my life.”
That’s what 49 percent of Americans aged 65 to 69 said in a survey reported by the National Council on Aging. Almost that many in their 70s (44 percent) said the same thing.
How high might that figure be if we more closely followed the fifth commandment?
The U.S. population of people 65 and older is expected to double over the next three decades, from nearly 35.3 million to nearly 70 million. The population aged 85 and older is the fastest growing segment of the older population.
While it’s true that we can find statistics to support just about any argument we want to support, some are genuinely significant. Many statistics about older adults—our parents—fall into that category. Some, sadly, reveal realities of elder abuse and neglect.
Alongside commandments against such grave sins as stealing, adultery, murder and lying, we find one about honoring parents. It’s the first in the list that deals with our relationships with others in the human family, a good indication of its importance.
God’s commandment to honor parents is much more than a children’s Sunday school lesson about obedience, although we’ve traditionally framed it that way. Those who first received this commandment from God were, in fact, adults.
God intends that we treat each other in particular ways, especially parents, the very people who gave us life. Honor denotes respect, affection, caring and esteem. It involves doing everything we can to insure that all of our parents are able to say, “These are the best years of my life.”
How can we best do that?
We honor our parents when we talk to them, listen to them and include them in our lives.
We honor our parents when we surround them with family and friends and help them fill their days with purpose and meaning.
We honor our parents when we cherish them and the values they have lived before us.
We honor our parents when we provide them with the best possible care and quality of life.
We honor our parents when we speak clearly and distinctly, repeating things as often as necessary in order to be heard and understood.
We honor our parents when we listen one more time to a story we could just as easily tell ourselves.
We honor our parents when we exercise kindness and patience when their steps are slower and their minds are unclear.
We honor our parents when we respect their wishes, ask their opinions and involve them as much as possible in decisions that affect them.
These are only a start. But doing these things faithfully and lovingly will go a long way in helping our parents say, “These are the best years of my life.”
God expects it, and our parents deserve it.
Jan Turrentine is managing editor of Acacia Resources.