Happenings, News

What senior citizens can do in the final chapter of their life journey

Seminar on ‘Ageing with Active Lifestyle – Challenges and Opportunities’

MORE than 300 seniors from 18 Trinity Annual Conference (TRAC) churches and several non-Methodist churches attended a seminar on “Ageing with Active Lifestyle – Challenges and Opportunities” at Sophia Blackmore Hall, Methodist Centre, on Jan 30, 2007 Organised by the TRAC Board of Seniors Ministry – School of Seniors, the seminar focused on the spiritual aspects of ageing and what Christians can and should do as they journey through the final chapter of their lives on earth. Many of the participants are in their 70s with some in their 80s. Despite their advancing years, they all had one thing in common – to know more about the will of God and how to serve and please Him. After the opening welcome address by Mr G. D. Balakrishnan, Chairman of the Board of Seniors Ministry, Bishop Dr Robert Solomon spoke on the subject of “Spirituality and Ageing”.

Starting with the concept that we are going through two separate journeys in life – one that is seen and temporary and one that is unseen which is eternal – he drew attention to 2 Cor. 4: 16-18 which says that “outwardly (which is seen) we are wasting away, yet inwardly (which is unseen) we are being renewed day by day” in our walk with Christ.

Each of us has been given a lifespan at birth and we move from one stage to another until the end when there must be a closure. As we age (as illustrated in Ecc. 12: 1-7) and become less useful, we may feel redundant, unwanted and unappreciated and even lonely. As our body and senses start failing, we begin to lose our identity and that is when our second spiritual journey can help and sustain us.

We begin to question “What is life?”, “Who am I?”, Whose am I?” It is reassuring that we can then claim that “I belong to Jesus Christ”.

‘We need not fear as we grow old but we must be prepared to “let go” and let God write the final chapter of our life story. This chapter in our spiritual journey has no end because death on earth is just the beginning of a new life in heaven.’

– Bishop Dr Robert Solomon

The Bishop reminded us that we should remember our baptism for that is when we come to belong to Christ and from then on, no one can snatch us from His hand nor from His Father’s hand (John 10: 28-30).

As we grow in maturity in our spiritual journey, we place our trust in Christ and He has given us the assurance in Psalm 23: 14 that “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me”.

Hence, we need not fear as we grow old but we must be prepared to “let go” and let God write the final chapter of our life story. This chapter in our spiritual journey has no end because death on earth is just the beginning of a new life in heaven.

Trinity Annual Conference (TRAC) President Rev Wee Boon Hup next spoke on “TRAC Directions for Seniors”. He began by encouraging the seniors to reflect on what they can do while they still have so many years left and what it is that they want to see at the end of their lives.

He suggested four approaches which all begin with the letter “R”:

Reformation – We need to pray and let God reform us so that we can be freed from bad habits such as anger, rage, malice, envy, addiction to gambling, nicotine, pornography, swearing, etc and end up better than what we were before; Reproduction – The Rev Wee quoted from Psalm 103 and 128, Proverbs 13 and 17 and Ezekiel 37 where references are made to “children’s children” and the message there is for us to look at the impact of the effectiveness of our lives in the context of our third generation. The “Christian heritage” which we pass on to our children’s children as we share our life experiences with them and disciple them whilst looking after them is a form of spiritual reproduction;

Revival – The Methodist Church in Singapore is due for another revival since the last one in the 1930s when John Sung preached in Singapore. “We must humble ourselves and pray with repentant, humble and submissive hearts and depend on the strength of God to do things; Reaching out – After sorting out the issues which prevent us from being effective “pray-ers”, we can then be effective witnesses for Christ.

The Rev Peter Goh, Director, TRAC Board of Seniors Ministry, urged the seminar participants to consider God’s view of ageing, retirement and work, and made references to various parts of the Bible, including the following:

• Psalm 90: 9-10: In his prayer to God, Moses mentioned that “The length of our days is 70 years – or 80, if we have the strength … ”

• Psalm 92: 12-15: The psalmist says that “The righteous will flourish like a palm tree … They will bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green … ”

• Exodus 7: 6-7: Moses was 80 years old and Aaron 83 when they were commanded by the Lord to tell Pharaoh to let the Israelites out of Egypt.

• Joshua 14:10-11: Caleb was 85 years old when he inherited Hebron, yet he said: “I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out (45 years earlier to explore the promised land); I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then … ”

These Scripture passages point to two fundamental truths: 1) It is possible for life’s greatest achievements to occur at old age, and 2) There is no retirement in Christian service.

Various programmes have thus been developed for the seniors to be active for life and these include visiting the homebound, helping in community service, mentoring those in need, care giving, tutoring needy students, baby sitting, hosting foreign students, drama groups, painting, art, calligraphy, etc.

The Rev Goh reminded the seniors that “our retirement years can indeed be the happiest and the crowning phase of our lives, provided that we discover God’s purpose for our lives and live our days on earth in the light of that divine purpose till the day He calls us home”.

On the topic “Understanding Older Persons”, Mrs Sheila Dharmaratnam highlighted some of the challenges the seniors face as their physical well-being deteriorate with age and the factors which have a psychological impact on their lives.

Growing old is a natural process and the gradual deterioration of the body can manifest itself in many ways, such as physical loss of height/weight and skin elasticity, impairment of sensory organs affecting eyesight, hearing and taste.

She emphasised that a person who lacks physical and mental stimulation, and a purpose for living and interest in others can deteriorate physically, emotionally and spiritually. Hence, the elderly should be encouraged to do what they can to avoid settling into a sedentary or solitary lifestyle. Regular physical activity, on the other hand, can lengthen a person’s life and reduce the chances of heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis and other medical problems.

It is well known that religious belief has a positive impact on the physical and mental health of older people and that frequent church-goers not only tend to live longer but are also likely to make healthier lifestyle choices.

Life is not easy for the elderly but faith and reliance on God will help them cope with the changes, said Mrs Dharmaratnam.

Besides the four addresses, there was also a short video show on “Active Seniors Programme” produced by the Ministry of Community, Youth and Sports and a “Stretching Exercise” led by Ms Jane Hee from Christ Methodist Church.

Wee Eng Hock is the Co-ordinator – Seniors Ministry at Trinity Methodist Church.


An educationist’s reflections

AN ASIAN proverb says, “The best gifts that parents can give to their children are roots and wings.”

Singaporean parents are excellent when it comes to giving their children a sound education and marketable skills.

We give them wings to soar like eagles in the commercial world. We do not fare as well in terms of cultivating our children’s roots. A sense of rootlessness makes us susceptible to the influence of shallow pop culture, ill prepared to cope with major crises.

How can we live without stories when all of life is a combination and recollection of stories?

It is in this context that Ng Fook Kah’s “Reflections” comes as a breath of fresh air to nurture and nourish us, giving us strength for life’s journey by linking us to our roots. “Reflections” was officially launched at the Seminar on Ageing and Active Lifestyle — Challenges and Opportunities on Jan 30, 2007, organised by TRAC Board of Seniors’ Ministry. Part of the proceeds of the book will be donated to the Kampong Kapor Methodist Church’s Mission Funds.

Mr Ng Fook Kah spent practically his whole life serving as an educationist. He said that his book “develops on the memories of the past, the thoughts and feelings about the events of growing up and maturing in family history”.
The educationist is still educating. – By the Rev GABRIEL LIEW, Pastor of Kampong Kapor Methodist Church.