Faith Formation

Older Americans Month: Focus on education and training for changing nature of aging

November 6, 2014
Lifelong Formation

We welcome back as guest blogger Warren Frelund, who serves on the Lifelong Formation Advisory Council and has served as a deacon in The Episcopal Church for 20 years. 

May is Older Americans Month (OAM), a time set aside by our government to recognize older Americans for their contributions and provide them with information to help them stay healthy and active. In recognition of OAM, I want to report back from the National Episcopal Health Ministries conference in New Orleans I attended a few weeks ago.

Arriving at the conference I was pleased to find that the attendees had a great deal of interest around older adult issues. I believe the interest and desire to learn more about older adult ministry is growing across The Episcopal Church and I am convinced that the parish nurse and the clergy of our churches have become the front line for these issues.

I presented a workshop at the conference about some of the best practices that the Older Adult Task Force collected and reported in the Aging is Changing resource.

I also presented the weekly  newsletter from Trinity Lutheran Church in Mason City, Iowa, which included their list of projects for older adults. In response, many of those attending the workshop offered examples of their own congregation’s older adult projects.

We discussed the importance of  parish nurses taking the lead in encouraging their churches and dioceses to establish Older Adult committees to address the issues of aging. One of these issues, in particular, is ministry with individuals with Alzheimer’s. As Alzheimer’s and dementia becomes more prevalent, we need to focus on education and training for the parish nurse and clergy. Toward that end, I recommend a great book written by the Rev. Malcolm Goldsmith, In a Strange Land…People with Dementia and the Local Church.

There is much work to be done. Members of our churches are growing older and the changing nature of aging makes it critical for congregations to stay informed.

The next National Episcopal Health Ministries Conference will be held in Indianapolis in 2016. I hope to see some of you there.

David Stickley

Formation Associate