Honoring the elderly is a responsibility and a joy. It is part of the natural cycle of family and can be as simple as giving the good gifts of Time, Forgiveness, and Remembrance.

How to Honor the Elderly

The Gift of TIME

One of the greatest regrets expressed by the dying is that they did not spend enough time with their loved ones.[1] By choosing to spend time with the elderly in our lives, we may help to alleviate not only their regrets, but prevent our own.

“In family relationships love is really spelled T-I-M-E.”[2]

Find a Shared Task and Do It Together

Taking time out of our schedule to visit with the aging in our lives may seem difficult. A simple solution is to invite them to be a part of your routine. Ask if they’d like to come grocery shopping, exercise, or eat lunch with you.

They have an “every-day” as well. Ask how they spend their time and see if you can find a weekly activity that coincides with something you need to accomplish. Spend that time together.

New Hobbies

I can’t remember a time when my grandfather didn’t have some enormous puzzle covering his basement table. He loved puzzles, and I enjoyed doing them with him.

Consider taking up a new hobby. Cooking, knitting, gardening, walking, playing games, and attending sporting events, are all opportunities to spend time with the elderly in your life.

Consistent Communication

As one who lives 12 hours from our nearest relatives, my children, spouse, and I miss out on the family birthdays, holidays, and Sunday dinners. While we long to be with our families during these times, we do our best to fill that longing through weekly phone calls, writing letters, and communicating online. We visit in person when possible and occasionally combine vacations with our parents, siblings, and their families.

If you live away from loved ones, take the time to call, write, or video chat. Keep them up to date on what is happening with you and your family.

The Gift of FORGIVENESS

“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” -Lewis B. Smedes

Family relationships help us in our life-long struggle to become the individuals God intends us to be. As children, we learn by watching our parents and siblings, gaining knowledge from their successes and their mistakes.

We become teens and young adults, often falling victim to pride, thinking we know everything. And then… we have children and realize just how flawed we truly are. Children mimic our behaviors. Like reflections in mirrors, they show us our strengths and weaknesses.

Through my experiences in raising children, I have come to a greater understanding of my parents, their sacrifices of time, energy, and “self”. I have often felt, as the UB40 song lyrics, “The more I learn the less I know…” [3] In other words, the older I get, the more I realize how desperately I need to forgive and be forgiven.

C.S. Lewis once said, “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.”

If you have been mistreated by an aging family member or have experienced a falling out, don’t wait. Free yourself and them from such burdens. Give the gift of forgiveness.

The Gift of REMEMBRANCE

Eventually our loved ones, those who have sacrificed for us and who have gained wisdom through their many years of personal experience, will finish their journey in this mortal world.  With that in mind, it’s important to give the gift of remembrance.

Study Your Family History

My grandfather was a cantankerous old man. He growled at me when I left a door open, talked too loudly, or tried to put a stick in the fire. I don’t recall him speaking kindly to me or looking at me with any sort of affection when I was young. He was, on the plus side, absolutely faithful in both his personal and religious life.

I spoke to my mother about him, wondering why I couldn’t make him smile. We spoke of his life, the things that made him who he was. He lost his mother when he was very young and was raised by an alcoholic father. Not the easiest life. One might try to blame his father for his lack of ability to show affection, until such learns that his father was raised by a mother who suffered great hardships as well.

A little knowledge about the lives of our ancestors can give us great insight. It allows us to more easily comprehend why our grandparents and parents are the way they are. I love my grandfather despite his “cantankerous” nature. My faith has been strengthened by his example of enduring faithfulness. History opens a door to forgiveness, patience, and joy.    

Compile Family Histories

Take the time to talk with your loved ones. Ask them about their lives. Write down the experiences they share and what they learned from those experiences.

Including photos in a family history album is a fun way to share a part of yourself with others, including  young children. Who doesn’t love seeing themselves in the face of someone who has come before?

Write Your “Autobiography”

We live in interesting times. We have interesting experiences. We overcome hardships such as financial down-turns, divorce, illness, and family feuds. Simple journal entries can help our children and grandchildren learn from our highs and our lows, our successes and our mistakes. Writing our experiences may encourage future generations to learn to balance a budget, choose a compatible spouse, pursue a career in healing, or avoid war. You never know.

Share These Histories

If you keep knowledge to yourself, you stifle improvement and progress within your family.

Benjamin Disraeli, a British Prime Minister during the 1800’s, once said, “The more extensive a man’s knowledge of what has been done, the greater will be his power of knowing what to do.” While it can be somewhat embarrassing to lay out our successes and mistakes for all of posterity, it allows future generations to build on a foundation, rather than starting from square one.

It is a miraculous thing, to be able to return to our aging family members what they once gave to us as infants and youth. Our grandparents raised our parents who, in turn, raised us that we might raise our own children and so on. This is a beautiful and natural cycle of trust, caring and love; a constant in an ever changing world.

“Cast me not off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength faileth.” – Psalm 71:19


[1] “Top Five Regrets of the Dying”, Bronnie Ware; The Guardian, February 2012

[2] “Of Things That Matter Most”, Dieter F Uchtdorf; Ensign, November 2010

[3] “Higher Ground”, UB40

Katie Burton

Katie Burton

2017 Torchbearer Intern