Spiritual Encouragement for Older Adults.
Missy Buchanan was born into a family that treated their elder adults with love and respect. Her own grandparents lived in her home she she was a child. So it only came natural for her to care for her parents as they aged. Even though they decided to live in a retirement facility, Buchanan visited them regularly to help provide for their physical needs. But it wasn’t until her mom mentioned how long it had been since she had been served communion that Buchanan began to realize that their needs were far more than physical.
And so began her journey as a writer and an advocate for senior adults. When Buchanan visited a bookstore to learn how few resources were available, she began writing devotions for her parents. But soon word spread in their community, and others wanted to read her devotions also. And it spiraled from there into books to minister to aging adults. “None of this is because I am an educated theologian or such a lofty word master. No, I think it is because I have tried to be a good listener, plain and simple. At least that’s what older adults tell me. I try to listen to what they say about their fears and concerns, their joys and blessings. I also try to listen to what they don’t say as closely as to what they do,” says Buchanan.
Both of Buchanan’s books, Living with Purpose in a Worn-Out Body: Spiritual Encouragement for Older Adults and Talking with God in Old Age: Meditations and Psalms are top sellers for Upper Room Books. Her next book, Don’t Write My Obituary Just Yet: Inspiring Faith Stories for Older Adults, will be released in April 2011.
Buchanan also writes a monthly column, “Aging Well,” for the United Methodist Reporter and she hosts Aging and Faith With Missy Buchanan on Blog Talk Radio. She has written for many publications including Presbyterians Today, Mature Years, Christian Association Serving Adults Ministries, Entrepreneur, The Dallas Morning News and Good Morning America’s spirituality page. Most recently she taped a segment about aging and faith on Good Morning America with Robin Roberts and Roberts’ 86-year-old mother. (Visit www.missybuchanan.com for a link to the interview.)
A sought-after speaker on topics of older adult ministry and spiritual creativity, she brings passion and humor to many events for churches, organizations, and women’s groups.
A native Texan and former creativity educator, Missy loves spending time with her family, including husband, Barry, three grown children/ spouses and the cutest-ever grandsons!
Become a friend on Facebook (Aging and Faith) and on Twitter (Missy Buchanan).
A wonderful book shining the spotlight of God’s love into the sometimes dark corners of elderly life. My 92-year-old mother discovered this book and shared it with me. We are both finding kindred thoughts in its pages, and we are encouraged! Finally, a book to inspire and bring much-needed hope! —Susan Redstone
Missy Buchanan has written a wonderful book. She has a very great understanding and feeling for us older folks. As I read the various pages I so very often found myself saying, “Yes, yes, that is how it is.” I plan to re-read this book soon as it is so inspiring. It is the kind of book you wish would just keep going on and on.–John B. Quinlan
Perfect book for those who are aging and feel purposeless. This is a much-needed book which can encourage those who are frail. I gave one to a man whose wife is in a nursing home. She has a perfectly clear mind but her body is worn out. He said he was so grateful for the book…he reads it to her each day and she derives such comfort from it. —Gloria Bishop
Every chapter of Missy’s book deals with valid concerns of our precious elderly loved ones. Having cared for my parents in their declining years, I can relate to the shared concerns of both parents and adult children. Missy has very aptly honored her parents as well as all others with her devotional guide.–Julie Morris
I read this book to see if it would be suitable for my 92-year old mother who is in an assisted-living home. It was not only suitable, it was written for her. One of the meditations “Homesick” begins, “Homesick at 92?” which is exactly what she seems to be. There’s one called “Worrywart” and one called “Doubt” in which she could see herself. If you have a loved one in a nursing home, this is the book for you.–Nancy Luckey, United Methodist member
Q & A with Missy Buchanan:
Q: What made you decide to start ministering to and writing books for older adults?
Well, as a middle-aged adult, I never had any intention of becoming an author of books for older adults. But because of the journey that my own aging parents were on, I realized how they had become disconnected from their church as their lives changed. They started off as active older adults and then that circle got smaller as they had more needs and physical limitations. As I would visit them at their retirement community, I would also see so many others that were just like them. They needed spiritual encouragement. And so that’s why I got started. The first book began as a project just for my own parents. I wrote devotions and kept them in a loose-leaf notebook. But others started asking for them and things just spiraled from there.
Q: What do you think children need to know about their aging parents?
What I realized personally was that I had been so caught up in my parents’ physical needs that I had neglected their spiritual needs. They were no longer connected to their church, at least in regular worship attendance, and that had been such a huge part of their lives. I almost made that mistake of just totally missing that, and that was the point where I began to write. I looked and there were other books written about older adults but not very many that were written to them and for them. So the first thing I would tell their children is to pay attention not only to their physical needs but also to their spiritual needs.
Q: What is your opinion about role reversal with children and their aging parents?
I hear the whole idea of role reversal where the older parent becomes a child and the grown children become the parent, and I understand what they are talking about because my own parents became more dependent on me. But I think that when we refer to it as a role reversal, and we begin to think of our aging parents as children, we strip away their dignity. We rob them of respect and we overlook the fact that they are not children. They have had a lifetime of experiences that a child has not had. And I think that is an important difference that grown children need to think about and pay attention to. It’s more of a role shift in responsibilities and not a role reversal. I know how much it hurts an aging parent to feel like they are being treated like a baby or like a child.
Q: Other than aging adults, who else has benefited from your writing?
A friend of mine in an assisted living facility asked me to bring some books for one of her table-mates. Her table-mate explained that these books were for her adult children. “They don’t understand what it feels like to grow old, and I can’t seem to make them understand, but your books say it better than I ever could.” My books are all written in the first person as if an older adult is speaking directly to God. There are a lot of adult children that are buying them for themselves and older adults buying them for their grown children.
And I’ve heard of different youth groups that have been reading my books in order to better understand what it’s like to grow old. Instead of just mocking their older peers, they are learning that they share a lot of the same feelings—feelings of insecurity, feelings of fear. As a result of reading the books, one youth group in Tennessee has even adopted the residents of the senior living center across from their church.
Q: How can faith change our idea of growing older?
So many see aging as a punishment, and they dread it so much. But even though it is difficult to be limited by an aging body, they need to look at it as a gift that God has given them. They still have so much to give. They have great wisdom to share and stories to share. I always tell my older friends that their story is not yet over.
I have a mother who is in assisted living, so I find this book very practical and definitely appropriate and real for the elderly living in the different facilities or even at home alone. For the Christian elderly, the chapter on “What purpose, God?” would resonate for them at this advanced age. I have a niece, who dotes on her grandmother, so the “Granddaughter” chapter would aptly apply. Mail. We all look for mail. Especially us women! Even more so for the elderly, thus the chapter, “Mail.”
Who can’t relate to the “Power chair” when you think of the elderly getting around? The “Late-in-life friends” is lived out daily, as some pass away quickly. Yes, and even some days they, like us, tend to have a “Pity party.” These are but a few of the devotional headings. All are terrific reminders of how to care for the physical and spiritual needs of the elderly.
Each chapter in Living With Purpose in a Worn-out Body applies somewhere in the life of an elderly person. It’s a book of realities of living in a worn-out body and still wanting to serve God and do His will amidst the trials of aching, slow, and aging bodies. The daily devotional comments come from actual people who shared their struggles and joy, and were put to pen by Missy Buchanan. The additional Scripture added at the end are great for additional meditation.
When I started reading this book, I felt like I was reading the “The Psalms of the Elderly.” Like King David, they candidly voiced their concerns, but praised God in the end.
As I wrote the author, I would love to see this book put into the hands of every senior who goes into an assisted living, a nursing home, or are still living alone in their homes. It’s real, yet encouraging. I so hope I have this when I get to that age! A great book to recommend to your church to give to the elderly.
This book was provided by Audra Jennings at The B&B Media Groups, Inc., in exchange for my honest review.