Visit the Elderly — It’s a Corporal Work of Mercy

The joy and blessings that come from time spent serving Christ is worth every minute.

‘Care for the Elderly’
‘Care for the Elderly’ (photo: kazoka / Shutterstock)

“Act on this word. If all you do is listen to it, you are deceiving yourselves. There is, on the other hand, the man who peers into freedom’s ideal law and abides by it. He is no forgetful listener, but one who carries out the law in practice. Blest will this man be in whatever he does.” (James 1:19-22, 25)

Visiting the elderly often seems like something we all talk about doing but never quite get around to finding the time for it. Many of us are aware that all the elderly want is even just a phone call. And yet this short weekly task falls by the wayside.

When I was younger, I found it difficult to visit with people in a nursing home. It wasn’t until my mother passed away, when I looked to her two surviving sisters for solace, that I could see the value of spending time with the aged.

It is not always easy to choose to visit elderly relatives. Their lack of memory or difficulty walking can make talking or moving with them less than desirable compared to a good time spent with much younger people. It can be hard work involving a lot of praying to keep a conversation with seniors positive and on track while also walking slowly and carefully with them just from the curb to a local restaurant. Nevertheless, the joy of time spent with such wisdom and in serving Christ in whom we perceive to be the least of us, more than makes up for the added effort.

I now find that I look forward to going to see Mom’s last remaining sister. Beyond learning from my aunt’s vast amount of knowledge shared with me, my visits are a chance to be genuinely loved by a relative. My 94-year-old aunt is thrilled to see me and give me a hug when I arrive. She loves me for who I am, mistakes and all. Together we are reminded of mutual relatives long past from this earth. For me, visiting my aunt is a chance to get as close as possible on this side of Heaven with my mother as the two have so many similar mannerisms.

All of this joy is shared between my aunt and me despite past misunderstandings when we were younger. None of that discord matters now that there are fewer of us left in the family. I can now laugh at my aunt’s forthright comments as she relates how she defended herself to her older son about managing her farm. Her line, “Don’t you cut me out!” to her son is a line I can use, too, as I advance in years.

All of these visits are most important because often they are the few that an elderly person gets. Many really do love a 94-year-old relative, but lack either the time or the courage to spend time with the person. And yet the power of being with just one visiting human being and having just one hour outside the house, spent in a restaurant, is immeasurable to helping an older person deal with the daily monotony of watching TV and reading books alone. Let’s be the one visitor who finds the time.

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