Engaging our Seniors

The number of Alaskan seniors has grown by more than 5% each year for the past decade. That’s faster than any other state in the union.

Right now, we have about 100,000 Alaskans age 65 or older. By 2034 – just 14 years from now – the state estimates that number will surpass 138,000. As Alaska’s Baby Boomers age, many become increasingly dependent on family, friends and neighbors for help in daily activities they once took for granted.

In a very real sense, this presents a stark moral challenge for us.

These are our mothers, fathers, grandparents, teachers, coaches, friends, pastors and mentors. Many of them invested vast amounts of time, resources and personal attention into our lives. No one is perfect, but we would likely be the poorer without their love and sacrifice.

As the tables turn, and they become increasingly dependent on us, we have a moral obligation to step up and return this love in kind.

The older the person, the more time they spent apart from others.

One of the greatest challenges facing the elderly is the amount of time they spend alone. Even before COVID hit, Americans 60 and older spent more than half their waking hours alone, according to Pew Research. This includes all waking hours apart from time engaged in personal activities such as grooming.

The older the person, the more time they spent apart from others.

This kind of social isolation often results in less mental engagement and more difficulty staying active or even taking medications. It also means there’s a greater chance that no one will be on hand to help during an emergency. In Alaska, nearly 25% of our seniors live alone, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Another 3% live in nursing homes or group living facilities.

Ensuring that our older members are cared for goes beyond mere food, water and shelter. It means engaging them as people created in the image of God.

And the road will always be smooth. We might have to rearrange schedules and sacrifice personal time to care for those who once did the same for us.

Growing old is inevitable for us all, but too often our elderly are forgotten, or tucked away out of sight. Their vulnerability must be our call to duty. In many cases this just means taking time to be physically present to them.

The benefits are often run two ways. Our elders have experiences, wisdom and perspectives from a long life that can enrich our own. They are not only our elders in years, but often in wisdom and spiritual maturity. We would do well to sit with them, listen to their stories and struggles, help bear their burdens, and join them in prayer and laughter.

It’s part of being human together.

5.22 > Engaging our Seniors

Joel Davidson
Joel is Editor-in-Chief of the Alaska Watchman. Joel is an award winning journalist and has been reporting for over 24 years, He is a proud father of 8 children, and lives in Palmer, Alaska.