I believe we all have a responsibility to give attention to older adults. Whether it’s by respecting our elders, taking part in efforts to serve them, or serving alongside them, it’s important to recognize their worth and value in our society, not to mention the added importance of helping them know they’re loved and appreciated. Although my suggestions are written with the church in mind, we can all play significant roles in reaching out to our ever-growing population of older adults – you, me, church ,community, government, and the workplace.
If you haven’t already done so, please read Part 1. It will help you better understand who older adults are, their interests and needs, and the importance of finding ways to make a difference in their lives AND for allowing them to make a difference for others!
There are three basic ways for the church to engage with older adults: 1) serve their needs, 2) involve them in ministries serving others, and 3) create multi-generational involvements.
There are many ways the church can serve the needs of older adults in the congregation and community. Include a section in the church newsletter that highlights older adults and give updates on their ministries. Add a similar page to the church website that includes links for local agencies and services that address needs of older adults. Offer workshops and informational gatherings to address health issues, nutrition/fitness for older adults, estate planning advice, etc. Identify needs of members who are homebound and consider ways the church could help. Plans should involve groups from all age groups. Example: Youth groups and/or local scouts could help frail elderly members by doing yard work or minor home repairs. Start a lunch buddy program that arranges for members to have lunch with home-bound members at least once a month. Provide support and assistance for care-givers of older adults. Many home-bound adults feel lonely and forgotten. Cheer them up by sending cards and notes! School-age children can write notes and/or send colorful crayon drawings.
Engage healthy older adults in age-specific groups and activities, as well as in multi-generational Bible studies, missions and ministries. Many older adults look forward to retiring from career-driven lives but don’t want to quit working altogether. Sure they want to have time for leisure and fun, but they also want to find meaningful ways to stay active, too. Some love the adventure of mission trips, others like serving locally and volunteering at the church. Older adults bring with them a wealth of knowledge and experience from their former professional years and time spent managing homes/families. They also bring wisdom and perspectives that can only be gained with time.
Engage frail elderly by considering their interests and finding ways to share them with others. Examples: Collect hand-knit and crocheted items for church craft/bake sales. Start a ministry distributing hand-made baby hats for newborns. Start a card ministry for home-bound adults to send words of cheer and encouragement to others. Create a Prayer Pals program that matches home-bound adults with church members for whom they can pray. What a powerful impact they could make for others with their prayers!
Providing multi-generational involvements creates win-win situations for everyone involved. By multi-generational I mean finding ways to bring people of various ages together. Mentoring programs are becoming very popular, pairing older adults with those who are middle-age, young adults and youth. Many of the ministries mentioned above create multi-generational settings and involvements. Church groups made up of young wives/mothers could invite older women to join them form discussions about marriage and raising families, allowing older adults to share wit and wisdom. Men’s groups could do the same.
At the end of Part 1, I suggested reading the Book of Ruth in the Bible. We usually read this story taking note of the loyal friendship between Ruth and Naomi, but this story tells even more about blessings of the relationship between older and younger generations, the needs of the generations for each other, and the ways God blesses us when we reach out to serve in love.
It is my hope and prayer that something you’ve read in these posts about older adults will inspire you to find ways reach out and make a difference for the older adults near you! Listed above are just a few of the many ways you could do so. Do you have ideas to share, too? If so, we’d love to hear them! Please share your comments and ideas.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:
Older adults aren’t people with special needs. They’re people with special blessings.
May God bless all who serve Him by serving others.
Baby Boomers and Beyond by Amy Hanson
Living with Purpose in a Worn-Out Body by Missy Buchanan
Designing an Older Adult Ministry by Richard H. Gentzler, Jr.
Senior Adult Ministry in the 221st Century by Dr. David P. Gallagher
Each of these books are engaging, easy to read, interesting, and very informative!