“For you have been my hope, Sovereign Lord, my confidence since my youth. From birth I have relied on you; you brought me forth from my mother’s womb. I will ever praise you. I have become a sign to many; you are my strong refuge. My mouth is filled with your praise, declaring your splendor all day long. Do not cast me away when I am old; do not forsake me when my strength is gone” (Psalm 71:5-9, NIV).

I have always found Psalm 71 extremely poignant. It is a cry from the heart of a man who was close to God all the way from his youth into his later years. He had accomplished great deeds and was even, in his day, considered a hero and role model by his peers. It is also the portrait of a man who, in the autumn of his life, now fears being forgotten.

This heart-deep cry is all the more overwhelming because it is the echo of a silent epidemic today, that millions of men and women of a good age feel like they have been put aside by a performance-based society that is disproportionately and cruelly focused on youth.

In modern parlance, the Psalmist would be concerned about the fact that his son only calls him once a year at Christmas, that his grandchildren are always too busy to come and visit him. He would fear losing his intellectual faculties, his memory or his autonomy.

Of course, government advertising campaigns make us aware of the afflictions of loneliness, neglect and sometimes even abuse that many seniors experience. Nevertheless, I believe that, as children of God, raising awareness is the least we can do. We are called to protect our seniors and to be a refuge for them. They are the ones who built the society in which we live as well as the churches in which we come together to live out our faith.

I encourage and challenge you to show respect, care and love for the elderly around you. I urge you to protect them from the loneliness and isolation and to honor them as God calls us to do.