Some are calling it the “gray tsunami”: the rapid aging of the North American population. In Canada today, there are 1,200-1,300 people turning 65 years of age every day. In the U.S., 10,000 Boomers reach that milestone birthday each day. That has tremendous implications for our government, for our society, and for the church.
How we treat the elderly, not only those in our churches, but also those in our community, has great importance. Twenty five years ago the church I attend established a daycare program for preschool children that is still going strong. We recently approved a budget to renovate our fellowship space, anticipating rapid growth in the area. But in light of an increasing number of elders in our community, that space could also include respite care one morning a week for those in our neighborhood or community struggling with Alzheimer’s or dementia. This would allow their caregivers to get out and do some shopping or simply enjoy a few hours’ rest from the continuous care they offer. It would also be a powerful witness to unchurched families who use the respite services.
That’s just one example of a new mission for the church. Here are a few others:
- Design intergenerational fellowship events and invite seniors in the community. Loneliness is a huge factor among aging people today. Staying engaged is very important in this stage of life.
- Encourage seniors to get involved in meaningful volunteer activities. These activities often reinstate a sense of purpose and meaning to life which is often lost when the rhythm of daily work ends with retirement.
- Seniors often ask themselves, “What am I bringing to this stage of life? How can I share who I am and the experiences and skills I’ve gained?” God often uses our experiences to help and bless others. The church can help people connect with each other. Intergenerational ministry opportunities are often occasions for such blessing.
- How can we as a church offer spiritual care for seniors? What resources can we make available to help people to pray specifically for younger members of the church or community?
- When trust is established and spiritual care is practiced, the church can often be of great assistance helping a family transition a loved one from independent living to assisted living or full-time care.
Is your church aware of and ready to offer Christ’s love to a growing elderly population? As we reframe retirement, remember God’s call remains on the lives of those who are now seniors. Let’s help them renew God’s call in this new season of their life.