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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Sign of the Fish? Or, a Shy Evangelist?

Mary Manz Simon, ALOA Board of Directors

“Lutherans are a little shy, you know,” says Linda Widman, Ft. Myers FL.

Yet, Linda, a lifelong Lutheran, has witnessed to countless numbers through her necklace ministry.

Years ago, she started wearing the simple circle of fish around her neck. Every day, she wore the same gold-hue necklace. Linda says, “I stopped buying other jewelry, because this is the only necklace I wear.”

“Christians are in the minority,” Linda continues. “Wearing it was my way of saying, ‘I’m a Christian and forgiven sinner.’”

Now widowed, the retired nuclear medicine tech still wears a fish necklace each day. The symbol reflects an Ichthys, Greek word for fish. During times of persecution, early Christians used this sign to connect with other followers of “Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Savior.”

Linda’s not-so-silent witness often becomes the topic of casual conversation. As a result, her outreach multiplies each time she gives away the necklace she’s wearing.

“If a person promises to wear it, I’ll give it to them,” she says. But there’s one stipulation: they need to wear the necklace.

“I tell them, ‘This won’t do any good in your jewelry drawer at home,’” Linda explains. “Several years ago, at the RV resort in which I was living, I looked across the room during one of our dinners at the River Clubhouse. There were 30-40 ladies wearing the necklace. That was pretty cool.”Until recently, Linda kept a stash of the inexpensive jewelry on hand, ready to give away. However, her supplier no longer inventories the product; her stockpile is dwindling. As Linda searches for a new source, she is confident God will provide both the necklaces and the people with whom to share the message. Linda is proof that not all Lutherans are shy evangelists!