Summary: For Senior Adult Sunday: There are legitimate concerns about aging; but there are also those who would prey on the elderly. God is our ultimate refuge and the protector of those who are to be valued, not thrown away.

If it’s old, it has to go. That used to be the message. In the years after World War II, once we got our economy back on a peacetime basis, we all wanted only new things. Bright, shiny, new. And so, if it’s old, it has to go. Do you remember?

Do you remember, if you go back that far, how, during the war years, you had to make do with your old car or in many cases no car? All the motor vehicles went into the war effort, and so you had to patch up the old one and keep it going the best way you could. My father drove a 1937 Ford until it just absolutely died. We did without for quite a while until the dollars were scraped together for something new. What a wonderful phrase! Something new! Everybody wanted something new. And so if it’s old, it has to go. Throw it away; send it to the landfill. Do you remember?

Do you remember the fifties and sixties, when the automakers discovered something called "planned obsolescence", meaning, "We’re going to bring out a new gadget every year and make you want it, so you will buy the new model and throw away the old." So this year’s taillights became next year’s fins, and you had to have them. This year’s colors, limited to black, blue, and brown, became next year’s rainbow of chartreuse, fire engine red, and passionate pink, and you wanted it. Somewhere in the sixties I remember my father saying, “There’s nothing much wrong with this car; but, the truth is, I just want a new one." Everybody wanted something new. And so if it’s old, it has to go. Throw it away; send it to the landfill. Do you remember?

Do you remember, in those consumption years, throwing away clothes because the lapels were too wide, the fabric was too polyester, and they had been seen too many times? If it’s old, it has to go. To the dump, the landfill. Do you remember?

If it was on your plate and you didn’t feel like eating it, out it went. No leftovers at this house. We didn’t have to save food any more in the consumption years. We did that during the war. Why, you know, as a child I spent the war years cleaning up my plate because there were starving children in Europe. How my eating helped them I never could figure out. But when I grew up I married one of the starving children of Europe and could afford to throw away food. If it’s old, it has to go. That’s what we thought during the fifties, the sixties, the seventies, the consumption years. If you don’t want it, throw it away; send it to the landfill.

But, to tell the truth, we began to think that way about people too, that you could throw them away. We invented forced retirement, so that when you hit the totally arbitrary age of 65, out you went, ready or not. Never mind that people differ widely in their abilities; never mind that some can produce more at 65 than others can at 45. The calendar said go, for, if it’s old, it has to go.

And we created the expectation that grandma and grandpa would live out their older years away from us, out of sight and out of mind. We got our own homes and careers far away from the family home. We let it be known that we did not expect them to follow us as we moved and moved and moved again, the most mobile society the world has seen. We invented leisure worlds, retirement centers, RV parks, to which they were expected to go. We said, whatever you do, don’t come live with us. If you’re old, you have to go.

We even invented some landfills called Florida and Arizona and sort of fenced them off from the rest of the world and suggested that if you’re old, you really do want to go!

But now in the eighties and nineties some things are changing. We have discovered recycling. We’ve found out that our resources are not unlimited. We’ve learned that we really cannot afford just to discard everything and buy, buy, buy. And so, where things are concerned, we started to deal with something other than the landfill. We started working with thrift shops and recycling centers. Where our material possessions are concerned, we found out that one person’s garbage is another person’s treasure, and so we began to think about how our old things can be reused.

I don’t know about you, but my wife and I like thrift shops, yard sales, and library book clearances. We hit them regularly. We browse for books when the library sells them for a quarter; we must have a dozen solid brass candlesticks that cost almost nothing except the elbow grease to clean them up. And my wife has a sweater which gets rave reviews every time she wears it; guess what? It came from a thrift shop; it came from some place like Value Village over here on the Avenue.

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