Wednesday 8 June 2011

Older people

Everyone knows that our youth are our future.  It's seen as madness for any social group (from the local stamp club to the largest nation on Earth) to ignore or exclude them.  But what about old people?  While we generally care about them we don't squander many resources on them: everyone (including the elderly themselves) knows that they would be better spent on the youth.

But is that how God sees it?  This paper made me think maybe not.  It's one of the papers from the International Conference for Ageing and Spirituality 2009 hosted on the website of the Selwyn Centre for Ageing and Spirituality (I can't remember how I came across them but their whole site is well worth a look).

I find myself currently asking one question rather a lot: "do I think/do that because of a Biblical value/perspective or a cultural one?".  So do I think the youth are of special importance due to Biblical or cultural values?

This paper suggests that the elderly are a group requiring particular care - like the 'widow and orphan' mentioned so often in the Bible. It also suggests that while the default is that families should care for their own elderly (quoting, for example, 1Tim 5:3-8), the church as a whole should also take on responsibility for the care of any in need.

My church is currently going through the process of appointing a new pastor and a big part of this is thinking a lot about who we are   One question that is being explored is whether there are people groups in our area that none of the other local churches are seeking to serve.  I wonder if the elderly are one such group?  I wonder if any church has 'adopted' our nearest rest home, for example.

The paper mentioned a church in Texas that is inviting elderly folk from their neighbourhood to live with church 'foster' families, and apparently such foster care of the elderly is practised in Israel, too. I wonder what we could/should do?

Lastly, may I reccomend one more paper from the same conference?  Being Old in the 21st Century - the elder person's experience by Sister Pauline O'Reagan RSM  Some interesting insights for all of us who are frail.

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