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Fall 1994 · Vol. 23 No. 2 · pp. 132–33 

Book Review

Life after Fifty: A Positive Look at Aging in the Faith Community

ed. Katie Funk Wiebe. Newton, KS: Faith and Life, 1993. 169 pages.

Reviewed by Alicia Hughes-Jones

Life after Fifty addresses the spiritual aspect of aging in American society and offers ways members of the faith community can model what it means to grow in grace as older adults. For Katie Funk Wiebe, editor of Life after Fifty and contributor of six articles, aging has two aspects: service to family and community, and continued personal growth in grace and faith. “Spiritual growth comes at points of decision,” says Wiebe. At maturity, one’s faith journey can take on new meaning, not as a preparation for ending and death, but as a celebration of living and growing in the knowledge of God.

Sociologist Dwight E. Roth offers a historical perspective of aging in a technological society. A social ethic that incorporates technological efficiency with material productivity, and science as the way to knowledge, {133} as in America, leaves no room for contributions by the aged who have accumulated practical wisdom.

Physician Willard S. Krabill raises hard ethical questions about medical resources and stewardship. Krabill offers specific ways an elderly patient can retain some control over his or her life through informed decision-making, living wills, and advance directives.

As people age, according to Pastor Maynard Shelly, they find they are no longer in charge of their own lives. Let the church become a place of empowerment for its older members, “in tune with the needs of people living longer with energy to work and serve Christ.” Pastor Richard Gerbrandt deftly handles the difficult subject of death. Gerbrandt lists four reasons people fear death and discusses physical death, spiritual death, and eternal death. He then offers seven ways to help people face death and six tasks to make themselves ready for death. For the widowed and never-married, loneliness can be a serious problem, says Pastor James H. Waltner. The church can become an extended family, both giving to elderly members, and receiving from them skills, wisdom, and experience. Older adults need affirmation, physical contact, and empathy.

In our highly mobile society, people want to know their family’s past, to find continuity over the generations. To tell your story is to give a gift of yourself to grandchildren yet unborn, according to Helen Wade Alderfer, former editor at the Mennonite Publishing House. Do we age by letting time and events shape us, or do we consciously or unconsciously pattern our aging after the elderly around us? Pastor Laban Peachey and his wife Helen address the contributions by the elderly to the spiritual life of the church and to those who minister to them. Faith gives hope, writes Paul M. Miller, active in volunteer service in his community. Elders spoke to him of becoming reconciled to others through forgiveness, prayer, and peacemaking. And, when Death is perceived as “homegoing,” each day brings a spiritual empowerment because Christ’s death and resurrection become real in a different way from how one viewed them in one’s youth.

Life after Fifty offers many positive aspects to aging, and people of all ages will benefit from reading it. At the end of each chapter are questions which provoke reflection. Sunday school classes, after-church “forums,” and other groups will find these questions ideal discussion-starters.

Alicia Hughes-Jones
Sociology Department
Tabor College, Hillsboro, KS

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