When Old Is New Series -- Older Adults Providing Fresh Insight on Aging

By Rev. Rebecca S. King  •  January 30, 2020

Bernard Bibby

Bernard Bibbly. Do you know him? No? I did not know of Mr. Bibbly either, until a few days ago. I happened to read his story in my newsfeed, and I became an instant fan. You see, Bibbly, at the age of 71, took up the art of dancing. He tried many types of dancing at first, but his passion is ballet. Recently, Bibbly and some of his classmates participated in the Royal Academy of Dance’s Level One exam. Passing the exam, Bibbly danced away with a bronze.

Formerly an electrical engineer, Bibbly took up the art of dance after his wife died. He felt it was important to get out and be with other people as he grieved. One of the reasons his story touched me is that Bibbly is breaking down stereotypes surrounding aging. Bibbly recognized a desire to learn how to dance and decided that it was the right time, at the age of seventy-one, for him. Discovering his love of dancing as an older adult, his teacher noted that “he’s encouraging other adults to get involved.”

National Skilled Nursing Care Week

Bibbly is not the only older adult to pass along words of wisdom to others. Each year, the American Health Care Association (AHCA), provides a theme for National Skilled Nursing Care Week, which is held in May. This year, the AHCA’s theme is “Sharing Our Wisdom.” The association recognizes that older adults have insights about aging and other topics that they may share with others, if asked. “Wisdom,” the AHCA notes, “is a synthesis of knowledge and experience. Residents offer a unique perspective based on their life experiences, reminding us to be present, celebrate the small moments, and value connections.”

Sharing Wisdom: A Conversation

The continuous care retirement community (CCRC) that I am called to serve has taken up the AHCA’s challenge to dialog with older adults about their experiences in life. This year, we are asking older adults in our community to share their insights in a variety of ways. Throughout the community, there are papers upon which older adults may write their words of wisdom. At the beginning of worship, older adults are asked to share their wisdom of the week. During visits, community members are sharing their insights on life. Even during a Bible study session, older adults in the community shared bits of wisdom with the group during the conversation.

The wonderful thing about the insight our community is gaining over the year is that we are not keeping it to ourselves. The goal is to share the wisdom the older adults are providing, with their permission, in a variety of ways.

The Season of Epiphany

For those of the Christian faith tradition, we are currently celebrating the season of Epiphany. It is a season of light, revelation and wisdom. How might the theme in your ministry setting center around wisdom sharing this year? How might the older adults in your home, your community, your congregation, your CCRC, your hospital, your hospice center, your dance studio, and more creatively be asked to share insights they have gained throughout their life? How might such wisdom sharing be used in an intergenerational event?

Be creative. Be present. Be open to the possibility that you may be transformed by the wisdom older adults in your life share. Listen. Start a dialog. The older adults in our lives have much to share, I believe. May you be transformed by the fresh insight they bring to conversations!

About the Author

Rev. Rebecca S. King

Having served as pastor at Community UCC in Fort Seneca, Ohio for three and a half years, Rev. Becky King currently serves as the chaplain at Fairhaven Community in Upper Sandusky, Ohio and as the dean of chaplains at United Church Homes.

View all articles by Rev. Rebecca S. King