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I recently turned 54, and in the past year I’ve noticed a marked difference in how younger people address me. The sweet kid selling movie tickets asks if I want the senior discount. The recently graduated nurse who measures my height says, “Well, you’re not shrinking YET.” The 30-something doctor starts sentences with the words “At your age….” 

Maybe I’m oversensitive to what feels like “early-onset ageism.” But younger folks might want to think about how they interact with people who are older than they, because soon they’re going to get a lot of practice. My middle-aged friends and I are about to become part of an “age tsunami.”

The number of people who find themselves in the “third third of life” (age 55 and up) is increasing—dramatically. The U.S. Census Bureau projects that the number of Americans ages 65 and older will nearly double from 52 million in 2018 to 95 million by 2060. In Canada, by 2061 there could be 12 million seniors to just 8 million children. 

The aging of the North American population brings with it both puzzling challenges and wonderful opportunities for the Christian church. What might this population shift mean for your congregation in 5 years, 10 years, 20 years? How will this new reality impact your worship, the accessibility of your facilities, your faith formation programming, your fellowship opportunities? How will you invite people in the third third of life to participate in ministry? And how will you minister to their unique needs? 

If your church isn’t talking about this yet, now is the time to start preparing for robust, life-giving ministry to and with people ages 55 and up. 

Faith Formation Ministries’ regional catalyzers are eager to talk with you, provide coaching, or facilitate a workshop on “third third” challenges and opportunities. Find your catalyzer here, or contact us at [email protected] if your region isn’t assigned a catalyzer yet.

And in early 2020, watch for the Third Third of Life Toolkit, the latest in a series of toolkits from Faith Formation Ministries. In this free online resource collection you’ll find dozens of resources to help you understand and plan ministry for many aspects of life in the “third third”:

  • faith formation
  • church community
  • retirement, vocation, and legacy
  • family relationships
  • emotional and mental health
  • physical health and dying

For updates on the toolkit’s release, subscribe to Faith Formation Matters, our monthly e-newsletter, or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

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