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Today’s guest article is written by Marie Villeza, you can read a short profile about her at the end of this article.
For seniors, it is especially important to stay socially active, because it helps to stave off feelings of loneliness, depression, and dementia. A recent study from Chicago’s Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center found that highly social seniors had a 70% lower rate of cognitive decline than their peers who were less social. One of the best ways for seniors to be social is for them to remain engaged in their church. For churches looking for ways to keep seniors engaged, here are six options.
Provide Volunteer Opportunities at Church
Seniors who volunteer at their churches are active and mentally engaged, and because they are engaging with others outside of their homes, they often have better health than their isolated or inactive peers. Some senior church volunteers answer phones and make copies of bulletins, programs, and hymns for church services. Other seniors whose churches have after-school programs volunteer to help prepare snacks for the children and then guide activities, work with children completing their homework, read stories to children, and more. Still other senior church volunteers do light cleaning duties, such as dusting, taking out the garbage, replacing spent candles, and more. Seniors also can ready the church for worship services by preparing the altar and communion supplies.
Coordinate Senior Sunshine Committees
Another way to keep seniors engaged at church is to coordinate a Senior Sunshine Committee. Senior Sunshine Committee members do things to spread cheer to fellow church members, such as preparing goodie bags and cards for ill and shut-in members. Senior Sunshine Committee members also prepare cards for members who recently married, had a child, graduated from school, etc. Senior Sunshine Committees often meet weekly or monthly, but the key is keeping a consistent schedule to keep Senior Sunshine Committee members engaged.
Leverage Technology to Your Advantage
Getting older often means a decline in health. Or sometimes the adventurous days of youth simply catch up with seniors, and they don’t have the energy they once did. This may mean that some mornings come with pain, discomfort, or exhaustion, and making it to Sunday service seems more like a hardship than a luxury. Make it easy for your elder flock members to receive their spiritual guidance without leaving home by broadcasting it via a conference call service.
You can even record the sermon and post it on your website, or send it via email so they can listen later (or again!) at their convenience. You can also offer video calling to seniors who need guidance but may not be up for a trip to the church. Communicating face-to-face, even from afar, allows you to have a more personal counseling session. It can do wonders to curb the loneliness and isolation many elder members may be feeling, especially if they must regularly miss service.
Offer Special Groups and Activities at Church for Seniors
Seniors often enjoy participating in groups and activities, and it’s a great idea to hold these groups and activities at church to keep seniors engaged and active. There are plenty of ways to engage seniors at church that don’t necessarily involve worship or prayer, including organizing board game groups or card clubs. Some churches have successfully organized sewing and knitting clubs, and senior members often make items for hospitals, nursing homes, and agencies that serve poor or homeless community members. Still other churches organize hobby groups for seniors who enjoy scrapbooking, collecting coins and stamps, reading books, and writing stories.
It’s also becoming popular for churches to host exercise classes to keep seniors engaged at church. Seniors can participate in low-impact aerobics, yoga, or other classes tailored to their physical abilities at churches at a much lower cost than they can at a gym or exercise facility. It’s common for church members to volunteer to lead exercise classes for senior church members as well, so that churches are able to offer exercise classes to senior members free of charge or at minimal cost.
Provide Senior Peer Counseling
Seniors have to deal with issues particular to their age, and they often prefer to talk about personal and emotional issues with peers. Churches can keep seniors engaged at church by offering Senior Peer Counseling. The Senior Peer Counseling program trains volunteers ages 56 and older to provide counseling to seniors age 60 and older. The program serves seniors in need of caring, nonjudgmental peers who will listen empathetically and help them handle grief, loss, depression, and other changes impacting their lives. Churches often run Senior Peer Counseling programs, because seniors feel more comfortable discussing personal and emotional matters in the supportive, caring environments that their churches provide.
Encourage Musical Participation
Churches also keep seniors engaged at church by inviting and encouraging them to participate in the choir or musical ensembles. Music provides cognitive stimulation for seniors, which helps to ward off dementia in some cases. Seniors also will remain active by attending practices and performing at church. By encouraging seniors to participate in choirs or musical ensembles, churches give them another opportunity to socialize and be a part of a group that serves the church.
There are several ways to keep seniors engaged at church. Some groups and activities more than likely already exist at your church, so encourage seniors to participate in them. Other groups and activities for seniors may need to be coordinated by church leaders, but once they are formed, seniors will benefit from socializing and participating mentally and physically.
Marie Villeza wants to bring generations together with ElderImpact.org, a site designed to help break down walls of fear and time between today’s young people and their elders. In her free time, she enjoys working in her garden, walking the forest trails near her house, and taking part in a local book club.