Communicate Creatively

Dr. Mary Manz Simon,
ALOA Board of Directors

The landscape has shifted.

The post-pandemic older adult prioritizes value. That’s not only true when grocery shopping, but also in choosing how we spend God’s gift of time.

Adopt creative communication in older adult ministry to reflect this recent mindscape shift. Although some of the following ideas might appear counterintuitive at first glance, give them a try!

  • Target your market. Who are you serving? The 55+ population? Retirees of various ages? Those 65 and older? Avoid advertising to the world. Instead, focus communication on the defined demographic, your world of older adults.
  • Create a pathway. Why should an older adult invest their limited time in your event? Answer this question by highlighting the value of what you offer. If your activity aligns with the needs of your target market, you automatically create a path to older adult ministry.
  • Incorporate stories. Stories shift the conversation from “me and you” to “we.” As older adults, we have many interesting stories to tell. Use the stories (but edit for length and details!)
  • Images communicate. We are a visually-driven society. Choose crisp photos. Crop smart. People don’t need to see ant-sized people; they only need to see one or two faces of potential friends.
  • White space can be a plus. Blank space makes your content stand out. Be strategic with content. Sometimes the more you include, the more likely a person will find one detail that eliminates their participation! Less detail can compel people to participate and find out more about older adult ministry options.

Check out this video to find additional suggestions on how to increase participation in your older adult ministry events.

Play Increase Participation video

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

Be Wise

Dr. Mary Manz Simon,
ALOA Board of Directors

Old people are wise. Those who live a long time have understanding. (NIRV)

I often turn to children’s Bibles for clear-cut translations of Scripture. The verse quoted above, Job 12:12, is an example.

Many versions frame the content in the form of two questions. I like to read this verse in declarative sentences. I need to be reminded that “old people are wise,” especially when I can’t figure out how to work our new Smart TV.

Gray hair gives us societal permission to offer feedback upon request. After all, we’ve lived a long time. But often, that same gray hair frames our words with unwanted authority; we become judgmental instead of helpful.

How can we give effective and helpful feedback?

  • View the request as an invitation to help. The tone says, “We can solve this together.” Often, collaborative connections result in solutions worth trying. A sense of ownership shapes the dynamic to work as a team.
  • Draw from your “experience bank.” Offer practical, realistic examples or observations. When people ask for advice, they usually aren’t looking for our personal history. They want ideas that work. You’ve solved problems and resolved situations. How did you do it?
  • Be honest. Did your solution work? Were there unexpected outcomes? What was the short-term impact? long-term result? Listen carefully if someone wonders aloud, “How will this work?” You might be able to offer additional observations that will make your feedback even more valuable.
  • Don’t avoid admitting, “I don’t know.” We might be wise, but we are still lifelong learners. Regardless of age, truly wise people are always eager to grow.

Check out this video to hear how our EQ increases as we age, equipping us to help those younger generations. 

EQ_play video

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

Having a “Senior Moment”?

Dr. Mary Manz Simon,
ALOA Board of Directors

Casual comments about possible memory loss have taken on a fresh sense of urgency this month as both President Biden and former President Trump have suffered obvious memory lapses.

Among the many media outlets recently reporting on these situations, The Washington Post interviewed multiple memory experts. Four facts are summarized below:

  1. Memory peaks in our early twenties. As we age, mental processing speed declines.
  2. Difficulty retrieving words, dates and information happens throughout life. However, a fuzzy memory is rarely noticed when we’re young. Awareness of memory issues attracts more attention as we age.
  3. “Forgetting” is a normal part of memory. Because space is limited, our brain consolidates information, simply to unclutter the mind. We need to forget to make room for new experiences or information. However, the fresh input might shift or change a memory.
  4. Our life stories form the core of our memory bank, so remembering is naturally selective.

The Old Testament prophet Job was correct when he wrote, “Old people are wise.” (12:12, NIRV) I’m only 76, so I’m optimistic that the second half of this verse will happen during the aging process: “Those who live a long time have understanding.”

Check out this video to find out how learning new things can help our brains grow and slow the process of aging. 

Play Use it or Lose it video

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

Do You Need Comfort?

Dr. Mary Manz Simon,
ALOA Board of Directors

“Yes,” says Pantone, the world’s authority on colors.

As a result, 13-1023 Peach Fuzz was named the 2024 color of the year. Although Peach Fuzz pledges to bring belonging and comfort, whether that promise will be realized is yet to be determined.

Social commentators note we have a “collective desire for well-being” that goes beyond grab bars in a spa bathroom. As older adults, we expect a lot from our homes. During the aging process, we shift from establishing our nests to making sure our nests are safe and cozy.

Living in what’s been called a “post-pandemic, stressed-out nation,” the demands of surviving the global pandemic started a chain reaction commonly referred to as “stress aging.” Although some people are more resilient, others among us might be on the aging fast track. While scientists dig into research, we can take several home-based actions to counteract factors that appear to accelerate ageing.

  • Enhance your outdoor space. There’s a well-documented link between mental health and the benefits of being in a natural environment. Will adding a comfortable chair on the deck encourage you to read today’s daily devotional outside?
  • Identify colors that are soothing. A classic blue and violet, which has a blue base, are considered to be calming. Soon, we may learn which colors contribute to security and a sense of control, elements especially important to reducing stress for older adults. Stay tuned.
  • Increase functional resilience of your space. Living in a volatile climate has raised expectations of housing. Preparedness reduces stress, so home readiness now requires living space to withstand increasing natural threats. What precautions can you take to be physically safe during weather disruptions like storms, heat waves and torrential rain?
  • Respond intelligently to climate change. We can adapt to obvious changes in addition to reducing the impact of environmental shifts. For example, adding solar panels might not make sense at our age; however, having someone replace incandescent bulbs with LEDs might be a way to become more energy efficient as temperatures warm globally.
  • Make your space age-appropriate. Accessible housing with the “big three” elements for older adults – single floor living, no step entries and wide hallways and doorways – can reduce risk and the accompanying stress. If relocation is unrealistic, some changes like substituting can lights for lamps with electric cords can be done without building code changes or community approval.

Check out this video to consider how “post-adulthood” can replace “the golden years” as our new normal. 

Man playing tennis

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

Trend Spotting

Dr. Mary Manz Simon,
ALOA Board of Directors

Trend-spotters crawl out of the woodwork at this time every year.

Since the pandemic, the general public has paid more attention to these observations. After all, we have learned through experience that societal and cultural shifts can dramatically impact everyday life.

However, trends are merely a collection of impressions and reflections unless they offer insights that are significant to you.

As we prepare to begin 2024, which of these emerging trends are shaping your journey through aging?

  • Technology expands options to stay longer in our own homes. Wearable devices, telehealth and smart homes allow more older adults to stay in their own homes later in life. Are you among the three-quarters of Americans above the age of 50 who want to age More than 78 percent of older adult living communities are pet-friendly. Some facilities, especially memory care sites, even offer automated fur babies which offer health benefits without care responsibilities. Are you a pet owner?
  • Eco-friendly design options are increasingly popular. Choosing sustainable practices is especially important for older adults on a fixed income. In what ways do you prioritize energy efficiency, upcycling or other types of eco-sensitive living?
  • Active aging has surged. Preventing “functional decline” through health and wellness initiatives can redefine our later years. In what ways do you reject the stereotype of aging as “sitting in a rocking chair?”
  • More grandparents are raising grandchildren. The most recent census revealed that an increasing number of grandparents are primary caregivers for grandchildren. This lifestyle change dramatically moves beyond mere multigenerational living. Do you know an older adult who is raising grandchildren?
  • The “attention economy” stretches into a 24-hour day. Time becomes increasingly precious as we age. With the explosion of content and communication options, “cultural noise” and distractions are ever present. What influences how you invest your time?
  • Remote work expands possibilities for older adults. Instead of retiring, some older adults continue to be employed through the pandemic “spinoff” of flexible work environments. How many older adults in your friend-group still earn a paycheck?

Check out this video to find out more about how life stages impact the ways in which we share values. 

Play video on Life Stages

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

Step Out of the Box

Dr. Mary Manz Simon,
ALOA Board of Directors

The end of 2023 is in sight. Have you “caught up” yet?

Last year was unofficially the “Great Catch Up Year” after the pandemic. However, because COVID-19 was still circulating, many older adults hit “pause” until now.

Have you celebrated the milestones that were delayed? Fulfilled plans that were postponed? Or is time still moving so rapidly you can’t get ahead?

God’s gift of time seems to go faster as we age. One reason is because when we’re on autopilot, we fail to savor each moment. After all, if we know what we’re doing, why pay attention?

The routines that give us such security as older adults are another reason “time flies.” Routines offer comfort; they simply make life easier. We don’t need to think.

But there’s a downside to living on autopilot. Repetition doesn’t allow us to make new memories. Engaging the brain in new or different ways stretches time. Variety forces the creation of new paths in our brains. That’s another way of saying unique experiences grow our brains, which is essential for cognitive health during the aging process.

So keep the routines that work, but also step “out of the box” as we head into 2024. Try these ideas to slow the pace and make the year ahead memorable:

  1. If you always have a quiet New Year’s Day, invite friends to watch the Rose Bowl Parade with you. Or, for a real change, view a football game!
  2. If you exercise at home, go online to look for bargain gym memberships. Many fitness centers offer an inexpensive rate for new clients at this time of year.
  3. If you read fiction, browse the non-fiction section at the library. Even “heavy” content can be riveting!
  4. Access a map. Then ask, “Where would I like to go?” Either start planning a trip or look for travel features online or on TV.
  5. Ask a friend to join you at a different worship time. You might discover an entirely new “congregation” at your church.

Check out this video hear ideas on making changes to traditions so that they don’t lose meaning by becoming routine. 

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

Learning Every Day

Dr. Mary Manz Simon,
ALOA Board of Directors

What did you learn from the pandemic?

Living through the years when COVID-19 swept our planet changed us. Even if we aren’t living with the effects of long COVID, our mindscape is different now.

Although we no longer focus on the months when life left us behind, we did more than age during the pandemic. We changed.

  • Does getting out take more effort now? When the virus floated freely, without any hope of a vaccine, many of us learned to be happy staying home. Loading the dishwasher became less important; the sofa became more comfortable. Some of those habits are still entrenched.
  • Did you discover joy in God’s creation? Some people came upon such wondrous spaces, they still savor the stillness when surrounded by nature. Perhaps you now spend regular time outdoors.
  • Are you more compassionate post-COVID or do you roll your eyes when seeing someone (still) wearing an N95? News media alerted us to entire demographics we rarely noticed: the immunocompromised; organ transplant patients; those with mental health issues.
  • Do keystroke errors still send you into a panic? Perhaps you became so digitally savvy while using Zoom and FaceTime, you know the computer won’t explode if you hit the wrong key!

Educators talk about the need to be lifelong learners. This is true especially as we age, for new challenges continually emerge. For older adults, the learning curve goes up in unexpected ways and at inopportune times. This happens even without a global pandemic.

During recent years, we celebrated the holidays alone. The rapidly approaching holiday season offers an opportunity to consider what the pandemic taught us …. celebrate our blessings and recognize how much we still have to learn.

Check out this video to find out how to reap the benefits when we stay open to learning! 

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

Trending Beneath the Tsunami

Dr. Mary Manz Simon,
ALOA Board of Directors

You and I are perched on the front edge of the “silver tsunami.” As the ground swells beneath us, we can take steps to re-define aging.

Shifting older adult ministry to be “on trend” is a great way to maximize the potential of our age wave, change the traditional image of older adults in the church and revitalize an older adult ministry.

In what ways can you integrate these three trends rumbling beneath the surface?

Education
Older adult learning is surging. The pandemic propelled educators at all levels to customize lessons, offer unconventional ways to learn and expanded digital communication. How can you maximize both digital and in-person learning opportunities that have “spilled over” into our demographic?

Mental health support
Previous generations “coped” with growing older. Many of our peers have decided not to merely survive the aging process. They are committed to confront issues so they can thrive during these years. What resources will help older adults cope with the loneliness, anxiety and lost sense of purpose that have historically plagued older adulthood?

Thought leadership
Older adult ministry needs grassroots activism, but also courageous leaders to spark dialog. We can draw from decades of wisdom to face the challenges crippling local congregations, our national church bodies and the nation. How does your ministry structure promote creative thinking, encourage innovation and implement change?

Check out this video to consider a special contribution we as older adults can make. 

Special Contribution_play video

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

Future Proof Your Event

Dr. Mary Manz Simon,
ALOA Board of Directors

Demand for in-person events has skyrocketed. With pandemic anxiety fading, people across the generations eagerly anticipate in-person gatherings.

Although planning teams prepare for smooth events, no one can control all the variables. This is the reason contingency planning is plugged into every event. “Typical” challenges include travel disruptions, viral outbreaks in the area and supply chain issues.

Two women meeting and planning

However, when the majority of event team positions are filled by older adults, unpredictable elements loom especially large. We have medical appointments. Some of us no longer drive to night meetings or drive at all. Others have caregiving duties that might change unexpectedly. These and other factors make risk management essential when older adults serve in leadership or on event teams.

Use these suggestions to incorporate contingency planning into your event structure:

  1. Immediately clarify decision-making hierarchy. Who fills in for an absent leader? Is the absent leader consulted before major decisions are made? How do responsibilities shift when various positions are suddenly empty? Give all participants a written copy of the policies you will follow.
  2. Identify preferred communication channels. Early in the planning process, provide each team member with a master list of participants alongside complete contact information.
  3. Consult the “ecosystem.” The church property manager, event vendors, district/synod leaders from the regional office or others often have valuable information or time-saving tips. Specific questions will generate practical suggestions.
  4. Review potential problem points. “Technical difficulties” top the list for many church-based events. Does a knowledgeable, on-site technician have an equally knowledgeable back-up who will be “on call” if not “on site” for the event? Check rules for kitchen use, food service and other site procedures. Follow standard procedures to reserve event space as soon as the date is determined.
  5. Practice! A complete “run of event exercise” might not be necessary, but at least do an on-site walk through. Identify elements that might be unpredictable. Talk through potential scenarios, including both problems and solutions.

And have a terrific event

Check out this video for ideas on how to find new programming ideas for your older adult ministry.

Play Freshen Up the Program video

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

Are the Walls Too High?

Dr. Mary Manz Simon,
ALOA Board of Directors

“The walls are too high to climb. I went a couple times, but couldn’t break in.”

The gray-haired woman was talking about the older adult group at her church. The daughter of a former esteemed pastor of the congregation, her disappointment was obvious. Upon retirement, she had hoped to become active in the older adult group. Months passed; she finally gave up.

Yet I wasn’t surprised. In our personal desire for connections, we might forget that others have a similar need. Sociologists have a fancier explanation, but the bottom line is the same: a group can spiral downward into a private club. Networks can become so deeply entrenched, not everyone feels welcome. As seen in the real-life example above, this can happen even at a church. In middle school, we labeled it a ‘clique.’ As older adults, we might simply say, “the walls are too high to climb.”

With today’s epidemic of loneliness, connecting older adults with their peers becomes an urgent social need. In what ways does your older adult ministry welcome newcomers? Before fall activities get underway, consider integrating some of these strategies:

  1. Reduce “first time” jitters. As a teacher, I suggested that parents have their preschooler walk into school with a friend. Adapt that idea by having personable older adults waiting at the entry to pair off with each new person who walks in the door. The physical presence of a “welcome buddy” boosts social confidence for a new attendee.
  2. Offer a conversation starter. Include a “Let’s talk” topic in publicity for each event and on signage at the entry. This common “beginning point” not only triggers mental activity (valuable for older adults) but “evens out the playing field” for everyone. For example: our ‘Let’s talk’ topic for August is, “What I like(d) about my all-time favorite church.”
  3. Utilize media. Video tape people by using a Smartphone as they tell, “why I attend older adult activities.” Post the message on your church website. The brief, honest clips become unpaid endorsements, highlighting what attendees value in your ministry. Invite online visitors to look for the conversation starters before each scheduled event. This serves as a nonverbal welcome mat.
  4. Bring out the food. Update traditional church hospitality with charcuterie boards. At any age, eating is a social event. Feature various food groups throughout the year. Publicize charcuterie themes in advance; trendy food can be a big attraction. Older adults smile when offered healthy options.

At the end of your calendar year, assess the results. How many new older adults did you welcome?

Image by WOKANDAPIX

Check out this video hear more ideas on how to increase participation in older adult ministry activities in your church.

Play Increase Participation video

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

Wake Up, Church!

Dr. Mary Manz Simon, ALOA Board of Directors

I’m 75. How did I get this old?

Although I’m obviously on the gray turnpike, most days I don’t feel like an old soul.

Composite photo of faces of older adults

As we age, researchers say we’re likely to feel younger than our years. Some attribute that to age denial. Others credit medical advances which have made us the healthiest generation of older adults in history. If we think that age is somewhat subjective, believing “you’re only as old as you feel” can influence choices made during the third chapter of life.

In the past couple years, ALOA has been very intentional about changing the perception of older adult ministry. Historically, there’s been a hazy fondness for congregations that serve older adults. However, many of those congregations have experienced shrinkage; some have closed. That’s not surprising; a nostalgic lens neglects to recognize the tremendous gifts, talents and abilities of people with decades of valuable experience.

Older adults have expertise that covers broad fields. Their willingness to “pitch in as able” can power numerous ministry areas. Years of serving on various church committees, leading initiatives, and working behind the scenes has created a deep reservoir of committed Christians who have spent lifetimes carrying out the Great Commission. And through the years, they, too have been blessed, for they experienced that “givers receive.”

ALOA believes older adults can serve effectively by, with and for others. An inclusive view of ministry is critically needed today. This outlook is necessary not merely for congregations to survive, but for ministry to thrive.

Nostalgia promises the social connections and emotional safety of simpler times. That’s an appealing promise during these years of continued uncertainty.

But have you noticed? The world is accelerating at supersonic speed. The church-at-large is being left behind.

ALOA recognizes that older adults don’t have all the answers. Actually, we embrace the fact that learning is a lifelong process. However, we challenge you and your congregation to maximize ministry: embrace the best of the past while layering in the strengths of older adults.

Through the words of the psalmist, God promises to bless those who “are planted in the house of the Lord.” For “they shall still bear fruit in old age; They shall be fresh and flourishing.” (Psalm 92:14, NKJV)

Check out this video to the older adult demographic present in our congregations.

Play Wake Up! Church video

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

A New Way to Vacay?

Dr. Mary Manz Simon, ALOA Board of Directors

Seeking a summer getaway?

Older couple on hike with mountain in the background

Although you might not become an international backpacker, travel among older adults is “bouncing back” according to AARP.

A post-pandemic desire to get away will fill planes and resort destinations in coming months. Even without this “bump” in travel among the general population, senior tourism has been growing.

As you plan a summer itinerary, consider “vacationing with a purpose,” which is ideal for older adults:

  • Learning adventures. Look for experiential or university-based options that build on personal interests but combine learning with fun. Even cross-cultural opportunities might be available locally. Mental activity feeds healthy brains at all ages.
  • Volunteering. Helping others or engaging in projects that benefit Planet Earth can be empowering. “When I want to improve myself, I volunteer,” commented one older adult. Giving of yourself while on vacation can be transformative.
  • Wellness tourism. Self-healing journeys and preventative health programs have always been popular categories in senior tourism. A post-pandemic uptick in mental health programs means opportunities for older adults are expanding beyond chair yoga retreats.
  • Cross-generational family travel. The desire to make memories with adult children, grandchildren and extended family members has re-energized the traditional reunion at a camp. The gift of time together can be a never-forgotten blessing.

And if there’s a nagging question lurking around, “Am I selfish to want a vacation?” remember that even Jesus went away to get reenergized.* Although burrowing at home can feel safe and cozy, God created an entire world to explore.

We’re never too old to discover more about ourselves, others and His Creation.

*Luke 4:15, Matthew 14:22-23, Luke 6: 12-13, Mark 6:30-32, Mark 7:24

Check out this video to find out 3 tips to dramatically affect our physical and mental well being as we age.

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

Maximize the Moments

Dr. Mary Manz Simon, ALOA Board of Directors

Our legacy becomes increasingly important as we age.

Woman deep in thought

Although some older adults spend days deciding who will get the family china, others turn in a different direction. They focus on the impact of their legacy.

That makes sense. After all, there are more days behind us than ahead. Time is precious.

Take these four steps to maximize the moments:

  • Prioritize. What matters the most to you?
    To transmit Christian virtues to the next generation, prioritize praying for your grandchildren by name every day. To ease the transition of the church visitation program to a new leader, write a leader’s manual. To comfort friends who are grieving, sign-up for an e-card service or buy a box of stationary. Invest in what’s important.
  • Remember the why. Connect the goal to the meaning.
    Remind yourself why your legacy matters. This mental process increases the “stickiness.” We stay motivated when we reflect on the reason we pray daily for that teenage neighbor or plug away at downsizing. Focus on the core purpose to prevent a wandering mind.
  • Be realistic. Approach goals in a way that makes sense.
    As we move through the “Go go, Slow go and No go” seasons of aging, it becomes harder to meet long term goals. We need more frequent “wins” to keep us engaged. Be realistic by building micro-habits.
    Breaking big plans into more do-able segments makes it quicker to meet goals. We stay motivated when the starting point and finish line are close together.
  • Serve. Our legacy will be reflected in those we help.
    Although it’s tempting to feel “been there, done that” when asked to serve, we bring years of experience. We aren’t competing anymore; we can celebrate the power of collaboration. We know how to mentor. The legacy of others is now reflected in our own lives. Our influence is magnified when we serve.

Check out this video to consider how our definition of old age naturally changes as we enter the “post adult” years.

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

Ready For a Role Model?

Dr. Mary Manz Simon, ALOA Board of Directors

“When I’m the oldest in the room, where do I find a role model?”

Have you asked that question?

I have.

Woman Writing

Fortunately, answers are all around. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population is people who are 80 years and older. These “Super seniors” are forging new ground in aging. Some model an active lifestyle. Others have a zest for life – from a walker or wheelchair! – that is contagious. The super seniors who lead committees and congregations, crochet hats for preemies or great others with a smile are potential role models.

However, even a supportive environment of super seniors won’t provide enough fuel to power our later years. We must be open to change.

Change is hard. We’ve learned that through the years.

Yet because we have lived so long, we have seen many ideas, innovations and trends come and go. Each change brought at least a moment of instability that required us to adapt. We had a mindset that was open to growth. Although a traditional older adult instinct might be to resist, we need to “click pause.” An attitude adjustment might be in order.

Looking through a more positive lens doesn’t mean living in denial. We are old. That’s a fact. Adjusting to the new normal that accompanies our age requires effort. Super seniors are among those who offer support. We must be open to listen and learn.

Read more about Super Seniors and Aging With Purpose in our March Newsletter

Play Power Years video

Check out this video to find out more how our older years are also our Power Years!

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

The Sound of Silence

Dr. Mary Manz Simon, ALOA Board of Directors

We rarely hear a baby cry in church.

The silence is deafening. But perhaps I’m missing the message.

Listen. Can you, too, hear the clarion call?

The shofar isn’t blowing at the base of Mount Sinai. The trumpet isn’t blasting outside the walls of Jericho, but the message of the psalmist comes across the centuries:

O my people, listen to my instructions.
   Open your ears to what I am saying,
   for I will speak to you in a parable.
I will teach you hidden lessons from our past—
   stories we have heard and known,
   stories our ancestors handed down to us.
We will not hide these truths from our children;
   we will tell the next generation
about the glorious deeds of the Lord,
 about his power and his mighty wonders. (Psalm 78:1-4, NLT)

As older adults, we must listen. We must “open our ears,” for we have been called to “tell the next generation…about the Lord.”

You and I are nearing the end of our earthy journey with Jesus. Before the Lord’s amazing work in our lives gets muddled by the fog of time, we have been called “to tell the next generation.”

For years, we have journeyed with Jesus. Our witness has authenticity. Our words ooze realness. Those countless conversations with God have validity and legitimacy for the generations that follow. Mission fields are open, as conveniently located as the back yard and the apartment next door.

Scripture implies that mature believers like those of us who have experienced God’s greatness, will impact spiritual growth that leads to maturity for those who come after us. Faith formation occurs naturally in an inclusive community that engages people of all ages, like a family or neighborhood.

Today will soon be tomorrow. The children’s books in the box at my feet are ready to be shared. I need to email encouragement to our 16-year-old grandson. I want to reach out to the mom who emailed earlier today. I long for the Holy Spirit to come through what I do and say today, because I feel the urgency.

Can you sense the immediacy of the moment?

Check out this video for more encouragement to share your faith story with the next generations.

Story_play video

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

Transitions that Need our Attention

Dr. Mary Manz Simon, ALOA Board of Directors

Transitions are a common theme during older adulthood. Multiple resources, including those from ALOA, provide helpful suggestions to successfully face retirement, relocation, loss and other milestones.

Man Smiling

However, transitions on a smaller scale are often dismissed. After all, by the time we are 60 or 70, we know so much! All this wisdom must include how to break into a new social circle, correct?

And yet attending a new Bible class or activity can be an emotional challenge. “Fitting in” takes more time and energy when social groups are already formed.

Highlighting a new activity on the calendar is the easy part. The tougher issue is moving through the initial awkwardness and fear of rejection. These emotions lower our capacity to cope with the underlying question: “Will they like me?”

Years ago, we asked this same question after moving to a new grade level or job. At that time, we were reminded to “just smile.” That’s good advice at any age. Smiling eases the first step for everyone, because we are influenced by the emotions of others.

When facing a new social situation, apply these two principles:

  1. Acceptance predictor:  People become friendlier when you assume the other person likes you.
  2. Inferred attraction:  Show people you like them and value them.

And remember:  S-M-I-L-E

Check out this video to find out more about being content in our later years.

Contentment_play video

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

A New Year

Dr. Mary Manz Simon, ALOA Board of Directors

“Annus horribilis,” Latin for “horrible year,” is how Queen Elizabeth described 1992. After a tragic fire in Windsor Castle and marriages falling apart in the royal family, that Latin term was an excellent choice.

Woman deep in thought

Would you describe 2022 as “Annus horribilis?”

Coping with loss, pain or the challenges of growing older can be staggering. We might reach a point of deep discouragement or hopelessness.

The Old Testament prophet Elijah felt like that. He had legitimate reasons to throw a pity party. When the evil Queen Jezebel ordered him to be killed, Elijah sought safety in a cave. Fears took over. When he didn’t hear God in the wind, earthquake or fire, Elijah almost missed God speaking in a “still small voice.”

Like Elijah, when life overwhelms, we might miss hearing God. Because we know God can move mountains, we have expectations of how He might speak.

  1. When we long for a miracle, God might work through a therapist with a healing touch.
  2. When we pray for answers, God might lead us to an expert with excellent advice.
  3. And when we need to be reminded that God hasn’t forgotten us, He might use His own “still small voice.”

As we begin this new year, expect that God will walk alongside. Actively look for reflections of His deep affection and bottomless love. And listen attentively, for God just might whisper your name.

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

Looking Back Gives us the Courage to Look Forward

Dr. Mary Manz Simon, ALOA Board of Directors

That was the theme of the devotion at the meeting of the ALOA Board on Friday, November 4. That same theme emerged throughout the 30th Anniversary event the following night.

At the gala, a roving reporter passed the microphone to the “giants” in the history of our organization. What a wonderful opportunity to thank God for their contributions:

Collage of leaders in ALOA at 30th Anniversary event
  • Bob Zimmer, on whose compassionate and competent shoulders our organization was founded
  • Doris Hanson, whose fiery leadership at the age of 94 propels the “Village Movement” in Florida
  • John Frerking, who recently celebrated the 55th anniversary of his seminary graduation but whose ministry zeal more closely resembles a new graduate
  • former ALOA Board chair Shirley Carpenter who still serves as ALOA’s energetic cheerleader in the New Jersey District
  • Dick Hafer, whose successful years of leading Seniorfests led to founding ALOA’s Florida Region

Giants one and all, past and present.

Hearing from these gifted individuals was inspiring. The Old Testament prophet Job was correct when he wrote, ‘Age should speak; advanced years should teach wisdom.’ (Job 32:7, NIV) Each leader contributed to ALOA in the past and models ministry today. Each one embodies the truth that looking back gives us the courage to look ahead. These are confident leaders with gray (or no) hair!

ALOA continues to value that exemplary level of leadership, as highlighted by speaker Dr. Tom Cedel during his event presentation. Personally, we will need courageous wisdom as we each continue on this path of aging. As an organization, there are also challenges ahead for ALOA, as we strive to increase the church’s attention toward those in the second half of life.

Merely being an older adult gives us a terrific advantage: we have seen how God has provided. We know He keeps His promises. All those years of experiencing God empower us to face the future. Both personally and through ALOA, looking back gives us the courage to look ahead.

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

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.