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.

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.

Uplifted During the Pandemic

Mary Manz Simon, ALOA Board of Directors

Is there reason to be feeling uplifted during this crisis?

Absolutely!

Not only is God active, He’s busy! Each of us can list numerous ways we’ve seen God at work among us.

I’m encouraged by the recently released 2020 Passion Points Study. Although neither older adults nor Christian teaching is the focus of this annual research, a single line in this year’s study jumped out: “One result of the pandemic is an increasing desire to celebrate and preserve family traditions.”

Perhaps COVID-19 has made even those in younger generations more aware of mortality. But whatever the reason, the study indicated that legacy thinking is heading downward. The emotional wiring of younger generations is changing.

Can you catch a glimpse of the opportunity? Family members might be longing to hear about the good old days, and this time, they’ll listen! During these uncertain times, we can be inspired to learn how ancestors coped with a disaster, problem or personal tragedy.

As older adults, we’ve lived through tough issues. However, we are living proof the family survived. Hope and optimism are bundled into every family legacy.  

Scientists tell us that emotion enhances memory and feelings activate the brain. Even if your memory is foggy, reach back to remember a situation or incident when you felt something. Then share that story. Resilience and the certainty of God’s promises will shine as your empathy connects and communicates.

And that’s critical, because your story reflects how God’s story is being revealed even during this crisis.

Which important relationships can you strengthen during this unexpected season?

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