We recently had a forum where we discussed how we can do better at reaching older men with Jesus. Here is part 1 of a presentation by David Shipley:
- It is right to discourage any disconnect between and across age ranges within the CVM network. However, too much conformity denies the uniqueness and diversity of each age range.
- Unhelpfully, demographic age groups tend to split younger men into five groups up to the age of 65 and only one group for those over 65. With increasing longevity, a more active older generation and older people working well beyond the once normal retirement age, there are now at least four demographic age groups in this older range.
- Age UK now identifies the age at which a person becomes “older” as 50 years. It should be noted that the term is “old-er” – to distinguish it from “young-er”! With increasing numbers of centenarians, 50 years of age is now seen as the half way point in life, so the terms “younger” and “older” are purely for comparison only.
- Older people can then be described as older employed, older active, older frail, older dependent, etc, without defining a particular age as being associated with any condition or situation.
Comparisons between younger and older men
As men get older there is a change in how they see particular areas in their lives. For example, younger men tend to focus on ambition but, as they get older, this focus diminishes and there is a greater emphasis on remembered achievements.
Similarly, young men see their work role in life as important while later generations place more importance on a sense of personal identity. In the same way, younger men see more value in material gain, whilst older men value having made a difference.
In many cases, later life creeps up on men unawares
Before it is realised, men suddenly find themselves at retirement having made no preparation for the significant change this brings about. Children are grown up, wives have an established social network and former colleagues become increasingly distant. Many of the things that have brought meaning and value in a man’s life are suddenly not there. Without any preparation for later life, older men can become increasingly socially isolated and bereft of feelings of self-worth, feelings that in the past were derived primarily from work, independence and self-reliance.
It is this lack of preparation that Age UK identifies as one of the main reasons that men find it hard to engage socially in later life. Steve Martin (CVM’s Operations Director) has commented that “many blokes who are in their 50s do not feel old”. This is very true and in many ways commendable. However, such an attitude ignores the fact that such men are “older” and prevents them from preparing for the changes that later life will bring.
(look out for part 2 next week …)