6 Steps to Locate Volunteers

Dr. Mary Manz Simon, ALOA Board of Directors

Volunteers holding donation boxes

Although older adults contribute significantly to the financial health of Lutheran congregations, few church budgets allocate enough funding to support ministries by/with/for this core demographic.

Create a healthy volunteer culture for your older adult ministry with these six steps adapted from new Lifeway Research:

  1. Honestly answer a key question: Why are you recruiting? (See Ephesians 4:12 if needed.)
  2. Pinpoint the reasons people in your congregation might be motivated to serve. (Being “guilted” does not count!)
  3. Identify a “champion.” Look especially for an “influencer” who has an established network of people in your church and community.
  4. Capitalize on relationships. Personally asking individuals in a one-on-one conversation affirms their God-given strengths, abilities and gifts.
  5. Focus on the ministry, not your desperation. Volunteers who serve joyfully are motivated, not manipulated.
  6. Continue the connection. Don’t abandon the volunteer who says, “Yes.” Offer opportunities to learn, grow and be re-energized alongside others.

Be encouraged.

Ten thousand people turn 65 every single day, so the potential of involving older adults in peer ministry is growing exponentially. Tap into this expanding pool and watch your older adult ministry blossom.

Check out this video to see how serving changes as we age.

Take a look at previous posts for more inspiration for older adult ministry.

Collective Effervescence

Dr. Mary Manz Simon, ALOA Board of Directors

Chair Exercise group

Do you sing in the choir? Participate in a chair exercise class? Attend local theater performances with neighbors?

Each of those socially-based activities – and many more! – offer a bonus benefit called “collective effervescence.”

When joy spreads from person to person, we refuel through the emotions of others. Often, we aren’t aware that of that transmission of feelings

Connecting with others becomes increasingly important as we age. Our social circle shrinks. Many older adults find making new friends becomes more difficult.

Try these 3 suggestions to make individual connections that can blossom into a larger social circle:

  • Pay attention to others. Although I grew up on the streets of Chicago which had plenty of people, it took years to break the urban habit of walking with my head down. Valuing time alone or wearing ear buds is fine, but try smiling when you see a face.
  • Be willing to open up. We’ve had years of experience making polite conversation. But go deeper. Don’t only talk about what you are doing; share how you are feeling. As we age, it’s easy to feel we’re the only one who deals with the fear of losing independence. Sharing struggles reminds us we don’t face the issues alone.
  • Make time for others. We are acutely aware that each day is a gift from God. Simply scheduling medical appointments can take hours! Prioritize people. Set time on the calendar to phone a friend. Save the Date and plan to attend ALOA’s 30th Anniversary celebration in Tampa on Saturday, November 5 to experience “collective effervescence!”

Take a look at previous posts for more inspiration for older adult ministry.

Our Hidden God

Dr. Mary Manz Simon, ALOA Board of Directors

Picture of sunrise

Where have you seen God today?

That’s a valid question during these turbulent times. If we think too hard about the challenges associated with aging or inflation, even the most optimistic person can become discouraged.

Viewing each day through a concept identified by Martin Luther can shift the perspective. Luther referred to our “Hidden God.” He wasn’t saying that God isn’t revealed through the glorious Strawberry Moon of June or the Scriptures we read daily. Luther was contrasting our expectations with how God actually works.

We tend to be like Elijah, who sought God in powerful acts of nature. We too, look for God in the milestone moments. But Luther noted that the Bible overflows with examples of how our “Hidden God” worked through ordinary people and everyday situations.

When our children were growing up, we shared daily “God sightings” at our dinner table. We simply told how God had been active. Often the moments were less than monumental. However, by looking for God, I believe we all realized how busy God actually was. We grew increasingly more aware of His presence.

As older adults, we only need a brief moment to recall some of the ways God has been present through the years. We remember how even ordinary situations became significant when our “Hidden God” held us in the palm of His hand.

God is still busy. How will He reveal himself to you, today?

Take a look at previous posts for more inspiration for older adult ministry.

Jogging our Memory

Dr. Mary Manz Simon, ALOA Board of Directors

Diagram of residents on cul de sac

There’s a “memory prompt” hidden in our kitchen cabinet. The scrap of paper hanging on the inside door helps us “look smart” when we socialize with neighbors.

As people moved into our new community, my husband recorded the names of those on our cul-de-sac. Now, we greet friends by name. A “senior moment” doesn’t stop the socializing.

During the aging process, we become increasingly forgetful. We might not remember where we left the phone or dropped a jacket. These mental glitches are common among older adults. That’s why many of us organize medications in a daily pill case or hang a key holder at the garage door.

Although we might assume mental sharpness declines very late in life, scientists now know the brain’s volume peaks in our early 20’s. The brain cortex starts to shrink in our 40’s, when we might first notice slight changes in the ability to multi-task or remember. The pace of this mental decline speeds up with increasing years.

Often, our sensitivity about memory loss or choosing just the “right” word happens because we compare current abilities now to what we did when younger. However, even during “old age,” our brain still isn’t “over the hill.” Learning is a life-long process: our brains can produce cells at any age. We can still grasp new information and save it in our memory bank. That’s good news!

Take these 3 steps to support memory fitness:

  1. Reduce anxiety. We are more likely to suffer memory gaps when we’re stressed. Although COVID continues to be an invisible negative, prioritize mental and emotional health. Reframe expectations to fit the reality of life in a pandemic. We’ve come this far. With God’s help, we can continue to take one day at a time.
  2. Adjust and adapt. Age-related changes in how we code and retrieve information are a part of life. Write a list of things “always to take” when leaving the house: wallet, sunglasses, hearing aids, etc. Then post the list on your most common exit door. Routines broken into “One, Two, Three” can also be a handy memory aid.
  3. Be optimistic. Decide to set a positive tone each morning. Scientists say facial expressions impact our mood, so see if smiling into the mirror boosts your positivity level. Or, read an uplifting psalm: try 136, 147 or 148. A balanced lifestyle, including regular aerobic exercise, boosts spirits. These activities that promote healthy aging also contribute to a healthy memory.

Although some brain changes are inevitable during the aging process, many things don’t change. Our moral framework provides a foundation of internalized Scripture-based values. Decades of life experiences contribute to a solid base of knowledge. Our innate common sense guides judgment calls.

The Old Testament prophet, Job, wrote, “Old people are wise. Those who live a long time have understanding.” (Job 12:12 NIRV) We gain that depth when we accept and adjust to normal, age-related changes and trust the God who has demonstrated his faithfulness.

Take a look at previous posts for more inspiration for older adult ministry.

More than “Grandpacore”

Dr. Mary Manz Simon, ALOA Board of Directors

Has your niece or grandchild found inspiration in your closet?

One of the most surprising fashion trends to emerge from the pandemic is being led by Gen Z and Millennials, or those born between 1981 and 2002. According to “experts” on Pinterest and Instagram, dressing like older adults is “totally hot.”

Older woman laughing

Has that thought crossed your “Grandmillennial” jewelry appeals to younger consumers who are looking for reflections of simpler times. Jewelers are busy resetting inherited heritage pieces or keepsakes which have collected dust for years.

That’s not all. Echoes of “Grandpacore” are evident in the men’s fashion space. Online searches for oversized cardigans, “grandpa sweaters” and relaxed jeans are hitting new heights.

While this unexpected attention to our fashions is rather amusing, ride the wave of remembrance to a point of actual significance. Give young people in your family more than a taste of nostalgia: share your Faith Story.

In March, I presented this topic at Veterans of the Cross, a national conference for retired professional church workers. Even though these Christian servants had spent their lives sharing the Good News, some appeared surprised that in a Faith Story, our personal history actually recedes. God becomes the focus. That’s because God’s faithfulness emerges as the theme. God’s actions through the years powers our Faith Story.

Celebrate what God has done in, with and for you. Share your Faith Story with someone you love.

Take a look at previous posts for more inspiration for older adult ministry.

Accelerated Aging

Dr. Mary Manz Simon, ALOA Board of Directors

“I’m too young to look so old.”

Woman applying face cream

Has that thought crossed your mind? As the pandemic drags on, some of us have discovered the mirror doesn’t lie. One poll discovered that women feel they aged four years in a single pandemic year.

Another study found the nation’s blood pressure has increased. Signs of pandemic-accelerated aging aren’t imagined. Scientists agree: the pandemic is aging us at a faster-than-normal pace.

Before-and-after pandemic photos confirm this fact. “Stress aging” of the past two years can trigger an unwelcome chain of events which has a cumulative effect on how we feel, look and behave.

A flurry of anti-aging solutions offers the usual suggestions. Exercise. Eat smart. Improve and extend your sleep. Practice stress-reducing activities including meditation, yoga and spiritual discipline to meld body and mind. And now, sport enthusiasts would add, “read the headlines to be encouraged.”

Three “Golden Agers” have been praised as inspirational human beings “not being slowed by age.” Tom Brady, Lindsey Jacobellis and Nick Baumgartner deserve the accolades. Forty-four-year-old Brady briefly retired after 22 years of NFL football. Thirty-six-year-old Jacobellis became the oldest American woman to win an Olympic medal. At age 40, Baumgartner, her snowboard cross partner, was the oldest American athlete at the Beijing Games.

Uplifted? Invigorated? Motivated?

Although I respect, appreciate, and enthusiastically applaud the stellar performances of world class athletes, I’m more inspired by some true old timers.

  • Noah, who at the age of 600, grabbed a hammer to build an ark longer than any of Brady’s football fields.
  • Or Joshua, who at 101 years of age modeled leadership as the walls of Jericho tumbled before him. He didn’t wait for someone else to step forward.
  • Or Anna, a night owl who was “very old”, her work ethnic continued even as she led a somewhat eccentric life.

Age doesn’t define impact when God leads the way.

Take a look at previous posts for more inspiration for older adult ministry.

Do You Want to Live to 100?

Dr. Mary Manz Simon, ALOA Board of Directors

If you hope to be a centenarian, the future might be closer than you think.

A new “Life Map” released by the Stanford Longevity Center reveals that living to one hundred might become the norm, not the exception. After all, many of the 10,000 baby boomers who turn 65 today are expected to live well past the age of 90. The big question is, “How can I maximize this bonus time?”

Health realistically defines the outer limits. But within those boundaries, three steps can help us maximize these years.

  1. Reevaluate what it means to grow old. Chronological age is no longer the only metric. Looking beyond outdated stereotypes, research suggests that older adults show superior judgment, reliability, and mentoring skills than those who are younger. At our age, we can “see the forest through the trees.” Who can benefit from my lifetime of knowledge and experience?
  2. “Backfill” later years. In the traditional life map, early years are front-end loaded. Education is crammed into the first two decades, yet learning is a lifelong process. “Backfilling” as an older adult might involve taking a class, teaching others or mastering a new technology. However, we need to be emotionally open to growing. In what ways am I willing to change and learn?
  3. Focus forward. Look at peers for clues to healthy ageing. Don’t merely watch those vibrant 70 year olds who play pickle ball at 7 am. Be inspired by the neighbor smiling from her wheelchair or the stroke victim who shuffles into worship. How can I move past the challenges I face today?

Regardless of our age, you and I are still God’s unfinished masterpiece. (Ephesians 2:10) In what ways will you honor the Creator today?

Take a look at previous posts for more inspiration for older adult ministry.

More Than Memories

Dr. Mary Manz Simon, ALOA Board of Directors

Has that box of old photos been calling you?

You know the one. It’s the heavy bin, nearly overflowing with photos, Kodak slides (remember those?) and random bits from the past.

As the pandemic drags on, finding ways to feel productive has been increasingly difficult for older adults. Socializing safely is nearly impossible as outdoor temperatures drop. Volunteering is still limited. Gray winter days mirror our mood. Perhaps this is the day to drag out that bin. After all, looking back can give us the courage to look ahead.

As we get older, our life stories take on a rosy glow. Researchers tell us there is a positivity bias in aging. This new “strategic memory” leads us to focus on what matters. Quite simply, we can become more aware of God’s footprints.

Life doesn’t fall into neat little categories, so our Christian beliefs and behaviors are woven throughout the years. Reviewing the past through a lens of faith causes us to recall what God has been doing over time. When we look for God’s footprints, we see how busy He has been.

Sorting through the mementos, we might identify a situation in which God steered us through a crisis. Dusting off the photos, we might see how God blessed an important relationship. And through the process, we become more aware of His continuing presence.

Today, let’s step back and notice God, again! For when the Holy Spirit guides our thoughts we won’t merely say, “Thanks, God, for the memories.” We will say with new conviction, “Thank you, God, for your faithfulness.”

Take a look at previous posts for more inspiration for older adult ministry.

Be a Bethlehem Shepherd!

Dr. Mary Manz Simon, ALOA Board of Directors

“I miss talking about my faith.”

The 87-year-old who sat across from me usually led devotions for a women’s Bible study at our church. However, pandemic protocols completely disrupted her normal routine. Fortunately, I had good news for my friend.

COVID-19 might limit holiday gatherings, but we can still share the Christmas message. Whether you are 65 or 95, use this 3-step plan to become a modern Bethlehem shepherd:

  1. Pray boldly.  Add an intentional, specific request to daily petitions.  Ask God for situations and opportunities to witness. Then thank Him, in advance, for the wisdom to approach others with a caring heart.
  2. Pray big.  Do 12 people live on your cul-de-sac? Attach a verse from Luke 2 to the Christmas cookies you leave at front doors. Pray that God would expand your vision among non-churched relatives, casual acquaintances, and those with whom you correspond at the holidays.
  3. Pray for courage.  It’s tempting to run from opportunities. After all, Lutherans aren’t noted for talking about faith. However, “God did not give us a spirit of timidity.” (1 Timothy 1:7) Trust Him to walk alongside.  

At the First Christmas, the shepherds didn’t dash to the nearest synagogue to spread the news that Jesus was born. They told an innkeeper down the street and a traveler coming to town for the census. Generations later, will you connect with similar people in these final days before Christmas?

Will you be a “Bethlehem shepherd” this year? Will you share the Good News that “Jesus is born”?

Check out this video to find out more about the unique perspective we have as older adults.

Take a look at previous posts for more inspiration for older adult ministry.

The Friendship Bench

Dr. Mary Manz Simon, ALOA Board of Directors

Senior and young man talking

Our church bell choir needed more space, so two pews were moved out of the worship space to the narthex. Those rarely used front pews have seen new life as friendship benches.

Seeing older adults naturally gravitate toward those cushy places before and after worship reminds me of a senior ministry in Zimbabwe about which I’d read.

Three hundred elderly women have been trained to serve as lay health workers in The Friendship Project. These “community grandmothers” sit outside clinics where they listen, talk people through their problems and encourage solutions. Even before the pandemic, research showed that social support methods of care can be effective for helping people deal with mental health issues. These trained women, who have available time and years of life experience, can make a difference.

This idea made me wonder if one of the pews in our narthex could be designated as a prayer pew. A member of the prayer team, composed almost entirely of older adults, could sit on the pew each weekend to pray with others.

Of course, congregations that intentionally skew their image, budget and programming to attract young families might feel “planting” a senior in such a visible position could lead visitors to think “this is a church for the elderly.” However, having older adults welcome guests and appear in communication pieces doesn’t imply a congregation is only for the elderly. We need the young, but can’t forget the old.

Does your congregation present a cross-generational public face?  Are initiatives for older adults fully funded? Does programming for older adults match the senior population in your church and community?  

Installing a Friendship Bench or asking older adults to staff a prayer pew might trigger other initiatives to expand older adult ministry.

EQ_play video

Check out this video to find out more how older adults have a unique advantage in listening to and helping others.

Take a look at previous posts for more inspiration for older adult ministry.

Not a Laughing Matter!

Dr. Mary Manz Simon, ALOA Board of Directors

I confess. I’m guilty.

On rare occasions, I’ve joked that, “I’m too old for that,” or “At 73, I’m barely over the hill.” However, there’s no excuse for that self-inflected ageism.

If those attempts at humor reflect any underlying gloomy feelings about being old, the World Health Organization says my health is in jeopardy. People with negative views about their journey as an older adult live 7.5 years less than those with a positive attitude. Clearly, I need to give up my attempt at age-related humor!

Many of us can supply a genuinely funny phrase to finish the sentence, “You know you’re getting older when…” ALOA Board member Rich Bimler continually reminds us that we need to age joyfully.

Keeping life light with laughter can distract, at least temporarily, from some of the challenges of aging that are anything but funny.

We even read in the Bible that, ”A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” (Proverbs 17:22)

Everyone can identify with many of the humorous anecdotes that are printed on greeting cards and appear in cartoons. Humor crosses cultural and generational lines. And if we want to generate a guaranteed laugh, an over-the-hill joke will always work. After all, aging is universal.

Research shows that an aging-induced decline in cognitive abilities can impact both the ability to understand humor and the ability to produce something funny. I was pleased to learn that older men and older women react differently to humor. We don’t respond equally to the irony in a punch line or the humor in a cartoon. That simple fact, not declining cognitive ability, clearly explains why I don’t laugh atmy husband’s jokes!

More research is needed to understand how growing older impacts what we consider funny and how humor can contribute to healthy aging. But in the meantime, we should be aware that ageist humor is a form of discrimination. “Harmless” age-related jokes can be potentially harmful to ourselves and others.All joking aside, that is no laughing matter.

Play Ageism video

Check out this video for more thoughts on ageism and what congregations can do to counteract it.

Take a look at previous posts for more inspiration for older adult ministry.

Five Actions to Embrace Aging

Dr. Mary Manz Simon, ALOA Board of Directors

I’ll be honest: A bit of my logic for joining the ALOA Board was driven by selfishness. I wanted to learn how to grow old gracefully from people who embrace aging.

Oh, I was willing to serve. I’ve always tried to go through the doors God opens. But I wondered how I, as an early childhood educator, could contribute to an organization that fostered ministry to older adults.

Yet eight years later, God has transformed my sinful, selfish nature and those uncertainties into showers of blessings.

A long parade of incredibly competent older adults continue to model characteristics that demonstrate how to thrive, not just survive the aging process. As board president, Shirley Carpenter exuded high energy leadership that continues to fuel older adult ministry in New Jersey. Rev. Ken Holdorf turned his woodworking skills into funding to launch ALOA’s video projects. Current member Deaconess Penny Cedel sets a dynamic pace to achieve ministry goals. And the list could continue.

Here are essential qualities these faithful servants of God continue to model for me:

  1. Have a reason to get up in the morning. Whether it’s caring for a cat or serving on the church altar guild, intentionally use the time God gives. Today is a gift to use.
  2. Connect. During the pandemic, we were reminded that aging can be a lonely, isolating experience. Whether you Zoom a Bible class, Facetime a grandson or tweet about a sale at the local grocery store, reach out to others.
  3. Celebrate God at work. Look for signs of God at work to see how busy he is! Joy will overflow to fuel new energy for life.
  4. Continue learning. Engage your brain. Finish a puzzle. Research staycation or vacation locations. Play a video game.
  5. Strengthen your spiritual core. Grow your relationship with Jesus. Read a devotion. Write a prayer each morning. Keep a daily blessings log.

In your life, who has God blessed you with who is thriving, not just surviving as they age?

Check out this video for more inspiration to help embracing aging.

Take a look at previous posts for more inspiration for older adult ministry.

We Know Who to Trust

Dr. Mary Manz Simon, ALOA Board of Directors

I never anticipated that post pandemic conversations would call attention to a Christian virtue. And yet headlines, like this one, have made trust a recurring topic. When someone says, “I’m fully vaccinated,” can you count on them to tell the truth?

It all comes down to trust, truth-based communication. Trust means having faith. Trust comes when you are willing to rely on others, yourself and God.

You trust the driver will stop at the red light. You trust your friend will pick you up for church. You trust the doctor who reads the x-ray. And now, you trust the person who says, “I’m fully vaccinated.”

Statistics unrelated to the pandemic say that people lie about once a day. But psychologists say that right now, because there is no verification system or punishment for lying, some people will flat out lie about their vaccination status.

It’s not surprising, then, that social trust is low. What a blessing that our trust in God can be at an all-time high!

Trust in God is one of the most prominent themes in the Bible. Simply because we have lived so long, we have had multiple opportunities to, “Trust God from the bottom of your heart.” (Proverbs 3:5, The Message)

When we trust, fear goes away. And when we trust God, others will also celebrate a new sense of hope.

EQ_play video

Check out this video to hear how God equips us in new ways in our later years.

Take a look at previous posts for more inspiration for older adult ministry.

Breaking Out of Our Coccoon

Dr. Mary Manz Simon, ALOA Board of Directors

Stay home. Wear a mask. Maintain social distance.

Messaging during the past year has been strong. Fear of the invisible, but potentially deadly SARS-CoV2 (COVID-19) has kept us home-bound and dramatically re-shaped nearly every aspect of daily life.

Fully vaccinated, we can safely visit a neighbor. While masked, we can shop for toilet paper at a fully stocked store. And finally, our hungry arms can wrap around those we love the most.

Flip the switch. Start living again.

And yet, many of us older adults are only creeping toward normalcy. We naturally cling to the routines that helped keep us safe; letting go will take time. The extended months of isolation might accentuate our age-slowed response. Anxiety that built during confinement can undermine our confidence to resume activities. We might hesitate to transition out of isolation while risks loom.

After being fully vaccinated, consider these suggestions to safely re-enter society:

  • Honestly assess your comfort level with in-person socializing. Identify elements that will allow you to feel safe while navigating beyond your house.
  • Break out with brief, in-person social moments. Intentionally reach out to your neighbor. Go outside to talk with a friend who is dog walking. Start with small moments of humanity near home.
  • Stay up-to-date. Check your church website to learn the current schedule for in-person worship and small group activities. Confirm which protocols are still in place.
  • Seek help if needed. Post-pandemic responses include anxiety, anger, depression and withdrawal.
  • Be patient with yourself and others. We have suffered social deprivation for more than a year. Initial contacts might be awkward; stretching social muscle will take time.

God has led us through the Valley of COVID. He has been faithful. He is still present and in control. He is preparing an eternal home for us, but our time has not yet come. Until then, safely step into a new normal. Discover fresh possibilities to learn, grow and serve. Let the promises of Jesus, which sustained you and me through these difficult months, fill your heart with hope.

Coping Change_play video

Check out this video for simple tips on coping with change as an older adult.

You’ll find a bible study to accompany this video here

Take a look at previous posts for more inspiration for older adult ministry.

The Gift of Volunteering, Even in a Pandemic

Mary Manz Simon, ALOA Board of Directors

“Habitat is starting up again,” Michael said with a smile. The thought of hammering nails doesn’t thrill me, but this long-time Habitat for Humanity volunteer was eager to resume his three-times-a-week “job”.

Michael knows the joy that accompanies donating time and talents. Volunteering propels many older adults to get up every morning. While helping others, volunteers profit from the “helper’s high” and gain other physical and mental benefits. However, the bonus for older adults is that volunteering boosts our sense of meaning. Purpose-creating behaviors become increasingly important as we age.

That’s probably why my friend Sharon told me, “The hardest part of the pandemic has been that I can’t be at the hospital.” A long-time volunteer, she recently earned recognition for donating 1,000 hours to the local medical center.

Although traditional, in-person volunteering has plummeted, non-profits have reinvented ways to serve during the pandemic. Volunteers work within restrictions, while experiencing the giving that helps others and creates happiness within.  

If you seek to serve, check the website of a ministry that matters to you. Many organizations offer new and alternative opportunities.

  • Although church potlucks have been suspended, you might work with grab-and-go meals and meal deliveries that have filled some gaps.
  • In virtual run-walk events, individuals run solo then submit results. This reconfigured fundraising still allows volunteers to build community and reach shared goals.
  • In our congregation, a cadre of talented seamstresses has made hundreds of face masks. A basket of the free, hand-made masks, some with Christian messages, sits outside the church entrance.
  • Organized programs reach out to military personnel and first responders, but a formal plan isn’t needed to drop a note or send a card to family or friends.
  • Carrying a garbage bag while picking up trash in the neighborhood is a fun way to show that being socially distanced doesn’t mean being socially disconnected.

Pandemic volunteering comes in various shapes and sizes, but still creates happy hearts.

Take a look at previous posts for more inspiration for older adult ministry.

How SAGY Are You?

Mary Manz Simon, ALOA Board of Directors

Did You Have Any Idea You Were SAGY?

SAGY. Don’t be concerned if you don’t recognize that acronym. I made it up to highlight exciting news: Seniors are growing younger. SAGY is a perfect shortcut to describe this relevant fact of life.

SAGY describes what’s happening to us and our friends. Our functional ability today is better than those who were our age 30, 20, or even 10 years ago. Functional ability characterizes what you and I did this morning:  climbed out of bed, made breakfast, dressed, reviewed the schedule, prayed, and whatever else we did to get a good start. Functional ability describes the activities that fill our day.

Functional ability tests measure and gather information that can be used to plan the support services needed as we age. And guess what? Recent data released from researchers in Finland paralleled previous reports. Among both men and women aged 75-80, muscle strength, walking speed, reaction speed, reasoning, and other characteristics continue to improve when compared with data collected from those who came before us.

When we FaceTime a grandchild, finish a jigsaw puzzle, or chose oatmeal instead of a donut, we don’t stop to think, “I contributed to my functional ability.” But as long as we continue to make those great choices, you and I will be SAGY!

Take a look at previous posts for more inspiration for older adult ministry.

Avoid the “Woe Is Me” Scenario

Mary Manz Simon, ALOA Board of Directors

Have you hosted a pity party recently?

Although this singular event respects social distancing – after all, group size is limited to merely me, myself and I – whining isn’t useful. Griping or going totally ballistic drains energy and takes us farther away from the positive thinking of our Christian mindset. Even worse, researchers tell us that chronic complaining can rewire our brains. Simply stated, complaining is habit-forming.

The aches and pains that come with aging offer multiple opportunities for negativity. But dreary self-talk signals the need for an attitude adjustment. Step beyond gloom and doom by taking these steps:

  • Honestly face underlying feelings. Merely pretending to be positive is a dead-end solution that can further drain our emotional banks. If you deserve to have a crabby morning, wallow in negativity for an hour or two and then move on.
  • Surround yourself with optimistic people. Scientists say our brains unconsciously mimic the moods of those around us.
  • Be alert to sudden negativity that signals a significant change. Irritability can be caused by medications, drug interactions, infections or illness. Apply knowledge of yourself to determine the need to reach out.

In the Bible, we read that Moses got so tired of hearing the Israelites complain that this mighty leader begged God to kill him! To avoid God’s complaint threshold, choose gratitude over grumbling. Your brain will be healthier, and you and those around you will be happier.

Take a look at previous posts for more inspiration for older adult ministry.

Will you Be a “Memory Architect”?

By Mary Manz Simon, ALOA Board of Directors

Who clicked fast forward?

We are quickly moving toward the season when memories are made.  As older adults, we can look back over decades of Hallmark moments. We cherish the traditions that connect the miles and years. What a privilege!

Researchers say that such “exercises in nostalgia” have actual benefits. Memory psychologists indicate that reminiscing can positively impact our mood and outlook. So even before the holidays, today can be a good day. Simply look back and smile.This holiday season, many of us will be among the oldest at family gatherings. But instead of merely recalling the past, intentionally create memories that will stick in the future. Become a “Memory Architect.” Plan moments that you and others will treasure:

  1. Add something new. Researchers say that older people have a decreasing number of new or novel experiences. That’s unfortunate, because when we think back, we remember a lot of “firsts”: first car, first job, first house. Something new forces us to pay attention. A novelty also creates mental activity, a key weapon in our aging arsenal. This Thanksgiving, break the boredom. Serve alternate nut butters on sprouted whole grain dinner rolls or substitute bison burgers for turkey. Instead of pumpkin or mince pie, serve brownies made with coconut flour. Guests will remember your meal for years to come!
  2. Focus on people. People continually leave or enter the circle of life. Individuals are key elements in making memories. Ask your grandson to bring his college buddies for Thanksgiving, then buy a bigger turkey! You’ll fondly recall this holiday. Or, does your church have a growing number of widows? Invite them to bring their holiday stories when they come to dinner. These women will discover what researchers know: reminiscing has a positive impact on mood. Your guests will gratefully recall what could have been a difficult holiday, and you’ll be blessed for your thoughtfulness.
  3. Re-live, review, reprise. Consciously focus on the memory as it unfolds. Stay in the moment, but in a mental note to self say, “I want to remember this.” Snap a photo with your mental camera: Quickly scan your senses: What do you hear, smell or taste? Who’s in the picture? Sensory connections trigger memories. Of course, you can always grab your phone to take an actual picture. Later, if you thank God for these experiences during your bedtime prayer, you’ll automatically force recollection of the people and events from earlier in the day. These intentional actions will help solidify the memory.

Take time now, before getting buried in holiday hoopla, to prepare small touches that will add depth to memory-making. Unroll a completed family tree to use as a table runner. Display family photo albums to trigger cross-generational conversations. Plan to show old family videos on your Smart TV.  Purchase a plain, pre-baked gingerbread house for each family to decorate and then take home.

Being a Memory Architect has a bonus. You not only have the promise of creating a holiday to remember, but you’ll celebrate a meaningful Thanksgiving and Christmas in 2019. So let me be among the first to wish you a memorable and blessed holiday season.