In a culture that glorifies youth and sanctions the euthanising of the sick and elderly, it’s easy to lose sight of the gift of seniors. Here are three ways that senior couples make marriage better for all of us.
By Francine and Byron Pirola
Earlier this year, Pope Francis released a series of homilies on the elderly. Each one explores a theme based on a significant figure in the scriptures, including Naomi, Joachim and Anne, Simeon and Anna among others. Even Noah gets a mention!
But we don’t have to go back to the time of the scriptures to experience the gift of the elderly in our community. This is especially so for senior couples – those who have been married for many decades and have weathered the storms of life together.
1: Witnessing to forever love
In an age where divorce is common, long-married couples are precious jewels – both rare and sparkly. The witness of their enduring love is like a ray of hope refracting into their community.
We can be quick to dismiss such couples as the simple result of a less complicated world, as if temptation and setbacks are unique to our age. Yet these couples have lived through wars, economic hardship, migration, social change, sickness, and tragedy as much as any generation.
No one’s marriage survives simply because it never met obstacles or dealt with complexity. Their marriage survived because each placed the good of the other above their own needs.
2: Wisdom Perspective
Seniors make wonderful mentors to younger couples in challenging situations. They provide relatable advice based on their own tribulations and relationship victories.
We all start out in marriage in the love bubble, full of passion and optimism. When troubles strike – for they surely will – passion and optimism are often the first casualties.
A couple of long years brings a unique perspective and the wisdom of experience to the difficulties that beset us. While it may feel like an intolerable situation, these couples remind us that good times and bad times come and go.
They testify to the power of God’s grace in restoring and healing strained relationships. Christian marriage is not about avoiding the difficulties of life; it’s about discovering Christ in each other through the difficulties we face.
3: Village Making & Maintaining
With our third grandbaby in under four years expected in a few months, the parents are doing it tough right now. Prolonged sleep deprivation and looming deadlines – on top of the demands of two active toddlers – frequently overwhelms them.
Being able to provide practical relief to parents is a special gift of grandparent couples. They are not simply disinterested babysitters. They are invested in the wellbeing of their grandchildren second only to the parents.
But it’s not just in childcare that senior couples make their impact. They are also uniquely placed to promote unity and collaboration in the extended family.
As the common relative among the growing families of their children, senior couples help maintain the networks of connection. They are frequently the initiators of extended family gatherings, reaching out to distant relatives and working to ensure all are included.
Often, for their sake, warring siblings and cousins will reconcile. Sometimes, it is only after their death that families realise that these matriarchs and patriarchs were an anchor that stabilised family relationships.
It has been said that the first half of life is spent building and acquiring assets while the second half is distributing them. That’s not only true of our material assets, but also of our personal qualities and spiritual gifts.
Senior couples are a treasure trove for the community. Their witness, wisdom and reconciling influence bless the generations that follow.
For more visit www.smartloving.org
By Francine & Byron Pirola are the cofounders of SmartLoving