Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Ready to Live to One Hundred?

By Sue Edwards

My husband and I recently attended a seminar on how to prepare for retirement. Neither of us wants to retire any time soon, but with economic conditions what they are, we hear over and over to sock money away for the future. What I remember most about the seminar was an astounding statistic. Our instructor told us that insurance tables predict that a healthy baby girl born today is projected to live as long as one hundred and twenty years!
My mind immediately turned to ministry with women. It's in my DNA. Are we preparing women to live that long? To take care of loved ones who live that long? Is the church aware of the tidal wave of change that an aging population will mean? I don't think so.
I decided to look for support of this outrageous claim. I learned that in 1900, less than five percent of Americans were over 65, but the percent of older adults has steadily increased. In 2009 they represented almost 13 percent and by 2030 the projection is almost 20 percent. In 2006, there were 73,674 persons 100 years old or older. That number is expected to mushroom in the decades ahead. Yes, we are heading toward a world where a centurion won't be that exceptional, and most of them will probably be women!
If patterns hold, women will be the largest group effected. Women are poorer. In 2006 the median income per month of a man 65 or older was $1958, but for women it was $1134. This means that half of the older women had an income of less than $1134 to live on. Women live longer. Women, by in large, are the caregivers of older folk. These changing demographics of the United States (as well as other places e.g. Europe, parts of Asia) will have dramatic effects on all facets of culture and society, but certainly more on women than any other group. How should the church prepare and respond?
First, I commit to talk and think about growing older differently. I commonly complain to younger women about the downside of "maturity", leaving a negative impression. I need to stop for their sake and mine. I tend to think of ministry years left, forgetting that Goethe finished Faust, Michelangelo completed the dome of St Peter's, and Cervantes wrote Don Quixote long after their 65th birthday. If we practice self-care now and later, most of us will be productive far into the golden years. I commit to stop worrying about being alone or sidelined, and adopt a positive mindset.
Second, I need to be more proactive in preparing myself and others. How can we help women live full years for Jesus even as centurions, or as long as our dear Savior might give us? Brainstorm with me about what kinds of ministries would accomplish that goal?


  1. Dear Sue;
    Your post reminds me of my life. I am a single woman, never married and have never had children. I have a full-time job, but very little in savings. By the world's standards I should retire in the next 13 years, but I know that God could have me live to be 100+.

    So what do I do with the next 48 years? I have chosen to dedicate my life to the Lord, through study, worship, times of solitude and silence and believe that from what the Lord is teaching me, I should share it with other women.

    I believe that as we age, we can mentor or disciple other women, showing them how to live devoted to Christ. We can model faithful and obedient stewardship over all that He gives us and live dependent upon Him. This is how we can be witnesses to Him (Acts 1:8).


  2. I am in my late 50s, retired, and spend my ministry time with the older ladies who are widowed or alone. Their constant complaint is that they are lonely and feel marginalised. It is important for churches to include them in all aspects of church life, including day trips out, make sure that there is someone able to push the wheelchair or sit with them if they cannot manage the walk; read to them as their sight is not always good and they want the company, don't just palm them off with an audio book; take them out for a coffee, a meal, a ride and include them in your daily life as much as possible. This way they stay young and interested and can be very important people within the church. They have had lives that will no longer occur again with amazing stories to tell, if only we would stop and listen. It is NOT all about the young, remember your older ones and enjoy all they have to give to you. They are valuable. Best wishes

  3. Dear Sue,
    I'm surprised to hear the statistic that babies born today will live to be centurions. I've recently heard another disturbing statistic: Babies born today are the first generation that will not outlive their parents because of an unhealthy lifestyle and diet. Your comment about self-care is key! I include a chapter about self-care in my book, The Beautiful Wife, where I write about the three circles of care: Spiritual, emotional, and physical. While most others will never be aware of a woman's spiritual condition, it affects the emotional and physical natures. The emotional nature of a woman is seen only by some but impacts the outer layer, the physical nature of a woman which everyone sees. Poor spiritual, emotional, and physical self-care causes a negative ripple effect from the inside out that prevents a woman from experiencing greater fulfillment in her life as well as fulfilling the plans God has for her.

    1. Thank you for sharing your comment. I am struggling with poor spiritual self-care at the moment,even though I attend church and read my Bible, (I struggle sometimes more than others). Do you have suggestions for those who have little contact with other christian women, are lonely or those who have busy lives and feel they have little time to nurture themselves in any of these areas?