How Not to Become an Old Biddy

Crabby-Old-Lady

After I was married but before I had children, I worked for some years at a fabric shop. We had a variety of customers of all ages, but some of the ones that stood out to me were the older ladies. Some were very sweet. I remember one, after I had spent a great deal of time helping her (to choose some buttons, if I remember correctly), saying, “You’ve been so kind – here, let me buy you a cocoa” while she put some change on the counter. I don’t remember what I did in response: I remember thinking I probably shouldn’t take her money, but I didn’t want to offend her, either. On the other hand, other older ladies were…cantankerous, to put it nicely. Really, all customers could fit into either of these categories, but somehow they seemed sharper and more focused in old age.

I remember thinking at some point that I hoped when I became an old lady, I’d be one of the nicer ones. Then, of course, it dawned on me that I was in the process of becoming the kind of older lady I would be, and I needed to start working on that now.

Now I am in my “middle years,” but with “old age” looming some time in the future (when exactly it starts keeps getting pushed back further and further 🙂 ), I’ve started to think in a more concentrated manner about becoming the right kind of older lady. So I thought I’d preach to myself a little bit in preparation. You’re welcome to read along. Keep in mind I am preaching to myself, not older ladies – that’s not my place.

Avoiding the wrong kind of old age:

Having a know-it-all attitude. Years and experience can provide more wisdom, but we should never get to the place where we can’t humbly receive what someone else has to say.

“The way we always did it” syndrome. Every new generation brings with it new vocabulary, new technology, new methods. Older people can help younger ones discern between new methods and old truth and try to keep the latter from sliding into oblivion, but we shouldn’t insist that everything be done the way we always did it (or gripe when it isn’t).

Being busybodies. Many years ago, an older lady in our church at the time told one young mom of seven that she was having too many children too close together, and another young married lady, who with her husband wanted to wait until he was out of school before starting a family, that she needed to get busy and start having children. You can imagine that both women were hurt and offended. I am sure that was not the older woman’s intent and that she thought she was helping others with the benefit of her accumulated wisdom, but she overstepped. Before sharing advice, we really need to seek the Lord about whether it is really needed and how and when it should be shared.

Being quick to judge.

Gossiping.

Impatience. You would think a person would increase in patience over the years, but I have not found that to be the case for myself. This is one area I know I especially need to work on.

Forgetting what it is like to be young, to have small children. etc.

Sharp words.

Being caught up in our physical issues. I have mixed emotions about this one. One does start having more physical issues the older one gets, and we shouldn’t expect older people to try to cover that up: we need to listen and empathize. We know how we feel now when we’re ill or hurting for a few days or weeks: imagine if that was the norm and not the occasional occurrence. On the other hand, if I expand my horizons a little bit, it will probably help my own outlook as well as give me something else to talk about.

Developing into the right kind of old age.

Keep in the Word of God. If you’ve read it through several times during your life, you may feel like you’ve got it all down. But we always have room to learn and grow spiritually: we always need fresh communion with our heavenly Father.

Take an interest in others. One serious problem for older people in our churches, as they wane in energy or start having physical problems and can’t attend as often, is that we tend to forget them or hope they’re doing ok but neglect taking the time to make contact, especially if they don’t have e-mail or aren’t on Facebook where we can do so easily. As we age we may get to a place where we can’t contact others, but until then, as much as possible we can take the initiative to make a phone call or send a note, and we can ask about them rather than just talking about ourselves.

Look for ways to serve others. You may not be able to head VBS or organize a banquet or serve in the ways you used to, but you can look for ways you can serve in your present capacity.

Don’t stop learning and growing.

Come to terms with a failing body. I don’t mean that we stop taking care of ourselves, but we do need to realize that our physical bodies come with a limited shelf life. Years ago I heard a radio preacher say that one reason God lets our bodies start failing us as we get older is to make us more willing to give them up when the time comes. Each aging problem is a reminder that I won’t live on this earth forever, and I need to be prepared for eternity.

Don’t be bitter. People have failed you and will continue to. “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:31-32).

Seek God’s will and wisdom in sharing advice. The Bible does say one thing older women are supposed to do is teach the younger (Titus 2:3-5), but it’s not always easy to know how to go about it. Dispensing unwanted advice right and left is not usually received well, especially, as I said above, when it is done with harshness and impatience and a superior attitude. Pray much and be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading in speaking to others.

Remember God has a purpose for your being here. I’ve heard older women wonder why they are still here when many of their loved ones have passed on and they can’t do much any more. Perhaps God wants you to minister in prayer for others or to be a godly example in your circumstances: perhaps He want to bless and grow others as they care for you.

Throughout my life, from my teens until now, God has placed older women at the stage just ahead of where I am whose example I can learn from. From single college girls to young wives to young parents to parents of older kids and then teens, and now facing the almost empty nest years and “middle age,” I’ve had godly examples to look to. I was inspired by one older lady where we used to live who was put into a frustrating situation of having to retire earlier than expected from a job she loved. She could have become bitter at the situation, but she came to terms with it and went on to find other ways to serve. I watched her make a point to welcome new people at church and invite them to sit with her, have other women two or three at a time over to her house for lunch, and visit with a couple of ladies in assisted living a few times a month. A couple of older ladies in our church now are consistently cheerful and take an active interest in others. One writes notes to my mother-in-law and gets together regularly with another older lady (neither of them drives, but the daughter of one takes them to a restaurant and then picks them up when they’re done).

My own mother-in-law has been a great example to me. I used to say I wanted to live until I was 100: after seeing what she has gone through in the last several years, I’ve amended that to “I want to live until I’m 100 if I can live in my own home, go to the bathroom by myself, and take care of myself.” I hope that will be the case, but God may allow something different in my life as He has in hers. So often when we’re changing her or positioning her or giving her a shower, I think, “You know, I would hate this – I would hate having other people have to handle me and take care of my most intimate needs and not be able to do anything for myself.” She probably would have felt the same way: everyone wants to be able to take care of themselves. But now that she is in this situation, she doesn’t complain (except maybe when our hands are too cold or when we have to wash a contracted hand that hurts) and is usually upbeat and cheerful. She thanks us for the least little thing we do for her. I remind myself that God gives grace for what we need when we need it: I don’t have the grace for old age now, but whatever situation God puts me in at that time, He will provide the grace then for it.

The Bible does have specific instruction for older women:

The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed. Titus 2:3-5

A godly example of an older lady is found in I Timothy 3:9b-10:

…having been the wife of one man. Well reported of for good works; if she have brought up children, if she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the saints’ feet, if she have relieved the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work.

Some of the older women in the Bible that stand out to me are Elisabeth, Mary’s cousin; Anna, who served God in the temple and told others about the coming Messiah; Lois, Timothy’s grandmother, whose “unfeigned faith,” along with that of his mother Eunice, surely influenced him.

And there is specific encouragement for that time of life:

Cast me not off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength faileth. Psalm 71:9

Those that be planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing; To shew that the Lord is upright: he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him. Psalm 92:13-15

And even to your old age I am he; and even to hoar hairs will I carry you: I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you.  Isaiah 46:4

Can you think of any other truths we need to keep in mind for our old age? Have you had any godly examples of older ladies in your life?

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20 thoughts on “How Not to Become an Old Biddy

  1. This was wonderful! I esp like your adjusted new saying. Derek’s grandparents are 91 and 92…still independent with their daughter living across the road. Yet, I know it’s hard for them bc their bodies are failing.

  2. I wonder if the bitter, complaining and nosy older ladies weren’t like that when they were younger. One of my sisters is a very negative person, always finding fault with others and imagining slights were there are none. She also wants to know everything that goes on in her children’s lives.
    Like you there have always been older ladies in my life who have influenced me. I just took on the role of leader of one of the women’t mission groups at our new church. These ladies, for the most part, are 10 or even more years older that me. I love them already and I know I can learn from them. I feel honored that they wanted me to do this.
    I don’t think you’ll be the kind of old lady you describe.
    Mama Bear

  3. What an excellent post, Barbara. I have been blessed with Godly examples before me as I walked this path of being a Christian. The ones that are the most endearing to me are the ones who taught by example, and so, that is the way I try to be for others. I turned 65 this past October and it has given me much more to think about the kind of example I’ve left behind and how I would want to change some things….maybe listen more, talk less. Thank you for the thoughts you have given us to ponder here, my friend.

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  5. Wonderful post, Barbara! One of my fears is of growing into a bitter old woman, but you’re so right-it starts now!

  6. What a great post, Barbara! Now that I’m Medicare age, I find your post very thought provoking. I live in what was originally a retirement community but now has all ages. Our local Publix supermarket though seems to be the one that where the “older folk” congregate and I see all sorts of attitudes! I’ve had several older ladies who have been mentored me throughout the years and I’m am so thankful.

  7. We visited Daniel’s grandparents (in their nineties) this last weekend and, on our drive back, Daniel was getting rather depressed about how alone they are. They live far away from most of their children and grandchildren and are homebound, meaning that most days they don’t see anyone but their live-in help. Daniel felt like maybe this was an inevitability – but I couldn’t help contrasting with my grandma, who we brought to live in the same town as us once she started declining. She could have really resisted the move, could have sat in a corner once she got there since she didn’t know people. She was in the earlier stages of dementia and had a hard time developing friendships due to that – but she chose to be content to go along with us, to be with us even when the things we were doing were different than what she would choose.

    The conversation, and the contrast between my grandma’s last year’s and Daniel’s grandparents’ current situation, got me thinking about the character traits I need to develop to ease my own transition into old age someday. Prioritizing people over things. Being willing to value other people enough to do things they enjoy even if those activities aren’t my first choice.

    This post is a lovely continuation of that thought – helping me think through how to age well. Thank you.

  8. Barbara, this is wonderful. I, too, have noted the differences between older ladies, and what a great point that it’s unlikely we’ll become sweet little old ladies if we’re not sweet little middle-aged ladies now 🙂 Your post is full of good things to ponder. I like your pastor’s thought that our bodies age as God’s way of making us more willing to part with them.

  9. What a great post, Barbara. I have been blessed with knowing a lady who was in her 70’s, but never really let her old age stop her. She is a namesake for our little on (middle name). This lady was spunky, godly, joyful, and more impressively, at her old age… teachable! I remember going out for dinner with her one night, and she showed me her 3″ boots that she was wearing.

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  12. Thank God for this article! I’m working with one right now. I’m 50 this year and she’s shown me how not to be when I get older. She gossips, she has a definite “We’ve always done it this way” attitude. I’m implementing a technical solution for her but because she’s, I assume, threatened, she dismisses me in a “yah, yah, yah”. She should be engrossed in this because it’s saving the US Taxpayers’ dollars. But I wonder how she became a PM. She’s grouchy and even said she was a grouchy old woman – now I believe it. But she’s also a liar as I finally had it with her and went to HR. She lied through her teach and said she never said it. Then she changed that to “I can’t recall” I felt like saying “Aren’t you a snake? You related to Bill Clinton?” She forgets what she tells me literally after one day. I asked her if I could send out a note and she said “Hold Off”. Then the next day she tries to embarrass me in front of a group and says “Didn’t you send that note”. I just said “No, you told me yesterday to hold off”. She forgets things and tries to act like I’m at fault. She’s a real peach – NOT! My only saving grace is that I got a job interview the same day I went to HR. She needs to retire as she’s 70 but she says she’s going to work for more years. God help the next person who has to work with her. All I can say is may Karma or the next life, even the score.

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