The Discipleship of Elders

Too old. Can’t do it anymore. Not a productive member of society. These can be some things we say about elderly people, or they may even say, or feel, about themselves. And if we don’t think that’s so, just consider the reports from military personnel who were recently deployed to some Ontario long term care facilities ( And these issues are not new: for decades reports and complaints have been produced outlining the dire conditions and concerns in these residences, which have been lost on someone’s desk. Just not critical enough, not important enough to put real money and effort into.

The pandemic we are living in has raised this to a new profile.

But at the same time, this pandemic has lifted up the amazing contributions and discipleship of our elders. Here are some highlights:

Captain Tom Moore, 100 year old World War II Veteran in the UK raised almost 33 Million Pounds for the UK National Health Service walking back and forth in his yard. Oh, then he was made Colonel Tom Moore. And how he is Sir Tom Moore. He hoped to raise one thousand pounds.

John Hillman, 101, World War II Veteran from British Columbia. Hoped to raise $101,000 to help children affected by the pandemic. In six days the total was $111,000. As of May 15, the total was $137,000.

Ron Ingram, 100, of Nova Scotia, has been a volunteer firefighter in his community since 1972. Although he can no longer be involved in active firefighting, he still volunteers where he can.

Or before the pandemic, how about Olive Bryanton of PEI who received her Ph.D. at the age of 82.

These are just a few of the countless other elders who continue to contribute and work and serve. These are people living out their discipleship every day. Our communities are full of them. And what they have in common is their love for people, their engagement in life, their desire to help and serve and be a vital part of their churches, neighbourhoods, and the wider world.

And one thing they all do is inspire us. Captain Tom just walked back and forth in his garden. It was picked up as a human interest story. It took off because he inspired us. If people of 100, or 101, or 82, or 90, can be people of commitment and service, with determination and with a joy in life (because that’s the other thing they all have in common), then surely the rest of us can.

There are a number of women I know in this age group, who inspire me all the time. They are women of faith. They are women of joy and enjoyment of life. They are gracious and wise and funny and full of love.

Discipleship, like love, never ends. God uses each of us, at whatever age, to share love and joy and hope.

And what about the elders whose memories shed each day like fallen leaves, whose bodies no longer hold them up, who can no longer talk to us or reach out? They call us on to discipleship: the honouring of each other, the blessing of being able to care for someone, the reminders of all the joys and sorrows of life, the place of vulnerability and need which we all face in different ways, the grace of God that flows through it all. They remind us where love is.

And don’t ever let anyone say, “You’re too old!”

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