Loneliness and Aging
January 23, 2020
Updated June 25, 2020
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This article is part of The Third Third of Life Toolkit—a collection of resources for ministry to and with people ages 55 and over, brought to you by two ministries of the Christian Reformed Church in North America: Disability Concerns and Faith Formation Ministries.
According to recent reports, loneliness is epidemic among older adults. New studies show that from a third to a half of older adults are lonely, and that loneliness is more of a threat to their health than obesity can be. How might the church address this growing need?
The books, videos, and articles gathered here can help us start the conversation about ways we can ease loneliness in our own lives and in our congregations, neighborhoods, and families.
Youths! Go Listen to Your Elders emphasizes that taking time to listen to and build relationships with older adults in your church and neighborhood can have a huge impact. And if you initiate a conversation, make sure you take time to really listen. That’s the point of This Is How You Pick Up a Phone.
Three Wishes. Get inspired by an 11-year-old girl who used GoFundMe to make the wishes of some nursing home residents come true. What wishes might you make come true among third-thirders in your congregation or community?
14 Ways to Help Seniors Avoid Social Isolation is a helpful list that can challenge church leaders and congregations to greater awareness and action in ministering to third-thirders.
Loneliness and Social Isolation Drive Elderly into Rest Homes. Many older adults maintain that they want to stay in their own homes. But what happens when a spouse dies and loneliness becomes overwhelming? How can the church help?
The Loneliest Generation: Americans More than Ever Are Aging Alone describes the growing number of older people, Baby Boomers in particular, who are living alone. The article connects that loneliness with health issues and mortality.
Old, Black, and Alone: A Grim Forecast. Rodney Brooks reports on a study that projects growing numbers of both white and black seniors retiring with no close kin nearby. The study also reveals that the percentages are highest among African Americans and explores the expansion of adult loneliness and its impact on health.
Grow Old Like the Golden Girls. This interesting article describes the solutions some older adults have chosen to avoid loneliness. It may spark ideas among third-thirders in your church community.
Book, Film, and Review
Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf; Our Souls at Night video; Our Souls at Night review. This beautiful book and the film created from it get at the heart of loneliness by taking us up close and personal into the lives of two older adults who have just lost their spouses. There is much in this book or film to generate a good group discussion. As reviewer Kristy Quist comments: “Our Souls at Night isn’t a study in biblical living. But it will give viewers a much better understanding of what some of the people around us are suffering, and that, in turn, may help us better embrace them with Christ’s love.”
1 in 3 Older Adults Feel Lonely. This newscast emphasizes the importance of connecting with others as we age—including connecting with a church or religious group.
FOR THOUGHT OR DISCUSSION
How can your church be more proactive about recognizing loneliness and providing visits and community to those who live alone and away from family?
What activities/events might invite these people in?
If you’re part of the Christian Reformed Church in North America and you have questions about how to strengthen your church’s ministry to and with people in the third third of life, one of Faith Formation Ministries’ Regional Catalyzers would love to talk with you about ideas and strategies.
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