From a blog by Rt Revd Dr Graham Tomlin, Bishop of Kensington & Sian Brookes in Integrated Care Project Team Manager at Age UK.
Earlier this month, Capitalmass published a blog by Graham Tomlin and Sian Brookes which looked at increasing isolation as people age.
They reminded us of the demographics:
"There is a time bomb waiting to hit us. In the UK there are more people over 60 than under 18. The percentage of people over 60 is currently around 22%. In 17 years’ time it will be 29% and in about 50 years’ time almost a third of people in the UK will be in their 60s or over. Nearly one in five of us alive today in the UK is likely to see our 100th birthday."
Then they identified a key problem - increasing isolation:
"People gradually lose friends and family as loved ones pass away. Also, as we age our bodies begin to change – 58% of people over 60 have one or more long term health condition which often results in them becoming homebound, unable to go out. About 3.8m older people live alone. Over one in ten older people are in contact with family friends or neighbours less than once a month. Two-fifths of older people say that their main company is the TV.
"This is also the age group that is most likely to self-identify as Christian – about 88% if you want the figures.In the Bible, youth is often seen as the time of foolishness, rash decisions, a lack of gravity, whereas old age is valued as a time of acquired wisdom: ‘grey hair is the splendour of the old’ (Prov 20.29).
Then they shared thoughts on possible actions for a church:
1. See older people as an asset rather than a burden.
Passing their years of wisdom to younger members of our congregation
Using spare time to volunteer at events, courses or in other forms of ministry
Upholding the church and community in prayer from their own homes.
2. Value and welcome them as part of the family of the church.
Include in ‘family services’ made accessible to them,
Allow them to have a role and take part with the children, younger, and middle aged adults.
3. Reach out
Connect with local charities such as Age UK
Make contact with their local council to find out about services that need support.
Create a community hub e.g. lunch clubs, tea parties, and outings.
Here is an example:
I would also add - create a befriending scheme. One such example for churches is Linking Lives UK. They equip churches that want to support and care for older people through a befriending scheme. They have developed resources and processes which can be adapted and used in a variety of community settings. These include a comprehensive action plan, researching toolkit, training and document templates. More details here.
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