Opening Doors To Discipleship is a series of four courses in the Presbyterian/Reformed tradition to help teachers and leaders equip themselves to be faithful teachers and leaders.

By 2030, when all of those in the Baby Boomer generation have reached age 65, older adults will represent about 19% (nearly one-fifth) of the population of the United States or about 72.1 million people (information from Administration on Aging Website, May 2014). The number of older Americans is anticipated to be more than double what it was in 2000.

This group of older adults is not going to be like previous generations. I am in the last half of the Baby Boomer generation, and I have seen a lot of changes for older adults during my life. My grandparents seldom took a trip unless it was to see family. Their activities were primarily tied to their church and community. Now I know 80-year-olds who are traveling to India and riding elephants or taking cruises to Alaska and going for a ride on a dog sled. With continuing advancements in health care, people are going to continue to live and be active longer.

Churches have tended to focus so much of their energy and resources on children and youth that they may not be prepared to meet the needs of this rapidly growing segment of our community. So what does all of this mean for the church?

1. The church must be intentional about providing programing and resources for older adults, which must be relevant to their lifestyles. (i.e. They might be more interested in an exercise program than a potluck lunch at the church.)

2. The church will need to find ways to communicate with older adults who are frequently away traveling, so that they can maintain a connection with the church.

3. Older adults use technology and are increasingly expecting the church to do so as well. Opening Doors to Discipleship makes it possible for older adults to participate in online learning groups even when they are away from home.

4. The church must find meaningful places of service for older adults.

a. Sponsor an older adult mission trip.
b. Adopt a Habitat for Humanity project.
c. Volunteer at a local school.
d. Establish a mentoring program.
e. Create a “Helping Hands” group that will volunteer to help others in the community with things such as mending, car repair, transportation, etc. “Lotsa Helping Hands” is an internet tool that allows people to create an online “community.” When people volunteer to help in a given situation, add them to the community so that when a need arises, they will be notified and can choose whether or not to volunteer. Check out www.lotsahelpinghands.com.

5. The church should look into ways in which it can partner with other organizations in the area to meet the needs of older adults for things such as

a. health screenings
b. health care equipment loans
c. exercise groups
d. recreational gatherings
e. meals
f. transportation

Our aging population presents new and different opportunities for ministry. How will you take advantage of those opportunities?

Contact a Presbyterian Reformed Educational Partner (PREP) representative, listed under CONTACT US, for more information about this topic or other articles in the e-newsletter archives.

Article by Cindy Martin, Coordinator of Adult and Third Age Ministries, Cumberland Presbyterian Church.

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