A Christian perspective on Aged Care in 2012

In recent times there has been a great deal of attention on how Australia is going to cope with the ever increasing burden of caring for our older generation.  It strikes me that before we discuss how we will care for the older generation it may be wise to first say something about why we need to care for them.  Now, while we may be able to identify several reasons why we should care for our aged I want to focus on what I consider to the fundamental ‘theological’ reason we should care for them.

The primary Bible verses I have in mind are Genesis 1:26-27 where humanity is said to be created in the image of God.  Now, scholars are not sure what constitutes the ‘image of God’.  That is, we do not really know exactly what being made in the image of God involves (the ability to think and reason like God, or the human spirit, or having a conscious??).  However, we do know that being made in the image of God means that humans are unique amongst God’s creation.  No other creature is said to have been created in this way, and this appears to be why humans are given dominion over the rest of creation.  Being made in God’s image makes each and every human intrinsically important.  This intrinsic importance is seen in Genesis 9:6 where the murder of one human by another is punishable by death.

The main point I want to make is that we are all precious to God, not because of what we do, but because who we are.  I work in aged care in Australia and I have been urged to give high quality care because the older generation deserve our respect for the way they built our country during and after the turbulent wartime eras of our history.  While I feel this is a worthy reason for providing high quality care I worry that it does not provide a solid foundation for our thinking on aged care because it is based on what people did.  What happens when it comes to caring for those who did not contribute all that much to our society?  Should we give a higher level of care to those who contributed more to our society while leaving others behind?   I would suggest that any emphasis on giving quality care to our aged must be based on the idea that they are intrinsically important.  This conviction drives me to treat each and every older person in aged care with respect and dignity.  I make an effort to be patient when someone is trying my patience.  I am determined to keep my calm when someone gets angry.  I will always provide the best care even if someone is a complete ‘bastard.’

This perspective will provide us with an enduring reason for caring for the aged with respect and dignity no matter their status or achievements in our society.  It is my hope that this perspective will facilitate the kind of care of the aged that we can all be proud of far into the future.  But, I would hope that it would also drive church congregations to become more active in the care of their older people rather than leaving it all to the government and aged care facilities (there is plenty that volunteers can do!).

Darren J. Clark

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One Response to “A Christian perspective on Aged Care in 2012”

  1. There are two words here that say it all when it comes to aged care, or care for anyone of any age, for that matter: intrinsically important. At first, I thought your blog lacked ‘meat’; I looked for more backing-up by Scripture, and then more from you personally on how you feel about people in their later years. However, on re-reading your post this morning, I believe you’ve said all that needs to be said. When I’m experiencing someone who’s really ticking me off, or who is acting in a unfriendly, unhelpful or self-destructive way, my first reaction is to judge them. My second, corrective, reaction is to see them through Christ’s eyes (as if Jesus was standing right next to me seeing the same thing), and I find myself almost immediately able to love that person, because Jesus does, and it’s through him that I get my will and energy to love and care for that person. So, there is no need for you to prove your case; you’ve hit the nail on the head: each one of us is intrinsically important. Looking at everyone through God’s lens changes our world view. Thanks, Darren.

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