KANSAS CITY, Kan. (BP) — In the recent Sherlock Holmes movie, “Mr. Holmes” (now on DVD, starring Sir Ian McKellen, rated PG), the intuitive detective battles his greatest adversary — and ours as well — the aging process.
This meritorious film isn’t so much about Sherlock Holmes investigating a puzzling crime as it is a perceptive presentation of coming to terms with old age and infirmity, the fear of being alone in one’s waning years, and finding forgiveness for past decisions.
Not old yet? Someone you know is. And gray hair and face-altering wrinkles come sooner than you think.
Chuck Kelley, president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, noted in a Baptist Press article earlier this year, “Today the fastest-growing segment of the senior adult population is the 85-and-up group. The birthdays you celebrate now are practice for the birthdays you will celebrate for many years to come.” Kelley also cited data showing that, in human history, two-thirds of those who have lived beyond age 65 are currently alive.
While the elderly have to deal with failing health and the increasing realization that death will knock on their door, they also must endure the indifference of a younger generation who, perhaps out of ignorance or busyness, fail to seek the wisdom of the aged or act to comfort them.
Along with Mr. Holmes — one of the best films of 2015 — here are a few other movies that have picked up on society’s dismissive attitude toward the elderly. While these films have moved us, are we applying their lessons?
“On Golden Pond”: a family, played by Henry Fonda, Katherine Hepburn and Jane Fonda, comes together, the daughter seeking to finally connect with her aloof father. It’s a film about healing relationships. (PG)
“Driving Miss Daisy”: A lonely, cantankerous southern widow (Jessica Tandy) is befriended by a wise and caring chauffeur (Morgan Freeman). Sharp and penetrating dialogue and moving performances remind us of the value found in those we often dismiss. (PG)
“Kotch”: Walter Matthau nearly won a Best Actor Oscar for his portrait of a septuagenarian dealing with a changing world while coming to the aid of a pregnant teenager. (PG)
“A Trip to Bountiful”: Oscar winner Geraldine Page plays a widow, unhappily living with her son and daughter-in-law, who runs away to visit her native home in Bountiful, Texas. During her journey, she and her relatives begin to realize how easy it is to become ambivalent to the needs of others. (PG)
“The Bucket List”: Two terminal cancer victims become friends while sharing a hospital room. Jack Nicholson plays a cynical, lonely billionaire eventually led to a better way by Morgan Freeman’s good soul. While Mr. Freeman’s character explains what other religions say about the hereafter, a scene of him and his family praying over a meal sheds light on his spiritual path. He’s a man with foibles of his own, but his patient, forgiving and compassionate heart obviously have an effect on the Nicholson character. This film reminds the elderly that they still have work to do — reaching out to others. (PG-13)
Alas, while these films do contain poignancy, most do so without the inclusion of an eternal awareness. Keep in mind, we can occasionally find truths from Tinseltown, but for built-on-solid-rock answers, study His Word.
And, although these movies contain positive themes and are examples of masterful filmmaking, they, with the exception of Mr. Holmes, also contain some adult subject matter or objectionable language. Again, I stress reading the Bible. The parables, the lessons, the answers are all there.
Perhaps someday in the sweet by-and-by God will answer all of our questions about this life. Until then, be assured, the big picture is made up of billions of little pictures, for God, who cares for the little sparrows, is in the details. Be not afraid. (“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me” Psalm 23:4 KJV.)
Through life, we will deal with aches and pains, with loss and loneliness, with fears and struggles, for all this is a part of the human condition, no matter who you are, no matter your age. But we are not alone. (“For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand, and says to you, do not fear; I will help you” Isaiah 41:13 NIV.)
Feeling alone, afraid, taken for granted? Reach out to Jesus, then to others more alone and afraid than yourself. As Chuck Kelley advises, “Speak as often of Jesus as you do your grandkids. If you will keep Jesus on your mind, He will find a way out of your mouth.”
Among his other points of counsel:
— “Be a mentor to younger adults. Get to know the ones around you. Ask about their lives. Listen to them. Pray for them. When they face issues you faced, tell them how you managed.”
— “Seek Kingdom advance above personal satisfaction. You lived much of your life deferring dreams and desires for the sake of your family. Be willing to do the same when your church wants to try something new.”
— “Give one last gift to Jesus through your estate. Honor Him in your death as you sought to do in your life, making your last act on earth a gift to your church or a Christian ministry.”
And a final word from Kelley: “Not since the days of Noah has God done for a generation of people what He is doing for this generation of senior adults. Celebrate your extended life, health and resources as His gift for His purposes. Use these additional years for His glory.”