Our place in community


What does the time of older adulthood conjure up in your mind? Decline, peacefulness, boredom, leisure, freedom to be your own boss, loss of health or quality of life? Many view this area of the lifespan in different ways, some positive and some negative.

Our culture at large associates growing older with deterioration and somehow being less useful to society. We applaud youth, vitality and independence. Those, of course, are all good things, but what about the virtue of wisdom that comes from a time when we can assimilate all of life’s experiences into something meaningful?

We are actively consumed with “doing” in adulthood. Sometimes all of that “doing” prevents us from seeing the value of what is happening in all of the “doing” of our daily lives. Just “being,” on the other hand, allows us to take in all that life has to offer. Elders do often have the luxury of more time just “being” and therefore have the capacity to teach us so much.

Should our place in community be defined by how much we can accomplish physically and how fast we can accomplish it? Undoubtedly, no. Speed and dexterity alone can’t define the value of an action or contribution. All of us, no matter what age, have a richness of social capital to offer the communities in which we live. In order to tap into it, we have to be open to the possibilities around us in our neighborhoods, service groups, church families, as well as other networks of our daily lives.

To miss out on seeing the unique place of each person in a community deprives us both individually and collectively. Elders and youth alike have a special place and much to teach us all if we are just open to the possibilities.