What Missionaries Ought to Know about Aging Parents

  • Approximate Time Commitment: 20 minutes

What Missionaries Ought to know… does not mean that the author sat down and decided what missionaries ought to know, but that missionaries themselves asked about these topics. During the author’s 35 years of college teaching he learned that if one person asks a question, others probably want to know the same thing—and if two people ask, it was certainly a topic that others need to know about. These are things missionaries need to know because several missionaries have asked about each of them at one time or another.

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Resource Description


As you move toward middle age and your children become adolescents, you may find yourself as part of the “sandwich generation,” sandwiched between your parents and your offspring. Although your culture holds you legally responsible for your offspring, it may not hold you legally responsible for your parents. However, you feel some responsibility for your parents. After all, they cared for you as a child, and it seems reasonable that, in return, you care for them when they need you. In addition, the Bible commands us to honor our parents.

People who do not cross cultures and travel to another continent face this same issue, but they are not as far away from parents as you are. They are also much more likely to be personally involved. Although some people have always face the question of determining their responsibility for their aging parents, only in the last century has the majority done so. Not only do more people face this issue, but it also remains an issue for a much longer period of time as life spans increase. Newly retired people commonly have responsibilities for parents who are in their 80s and 90s.

Although there are no easy answers to the questions arising about aging parents, knowing what to expect can help you give some forethought to what you might do. Following are some of the usual phases people move through as they age in western culture. Some people pass through all these phases with years spent in each; others may skip many of them due to accident or sudden serious illness. We could list six possible phases.


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