Loving our Elders and Fulfilling their Dreams
I’m going to take a little detour on the blog today, moving away from my usual talk about the new old and focusing instead on those at the very end of life’s spectrum.
The fastest growing segment of the older adult population are those who are 85+ and churches need to look for innovative ways to communicate love and care to this growing group. Here is just one idea for ministry with this group.
A Church Serves Those Who are Often Forgotten
Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Atlanta, GA has a unique ministry that touches the needs of the frail elderly. For the past 6 years, Peggy Fulghum, director of the Life After Fifty Ministry, and her team of active older adults, have hosted the Magnolia Ball for over 300 nursing home and assisted living residents as well as the homebound members of their church. The church’s fellowship hall is transformed into a 1940s big band dance hall with hundreds of lights, finger foods, and a 40-piece jazz ensemble. “We want to help these elders remember that they are loved and cared about and that they have not been forgotten.”
One part of the evening consists of helping to fulfill the dream of an elder. In one case, three women missed singing in the church choir and dreamed of having this opportunity. During the band’s intermission, the 50-member church choir came marching into the room in their church robes, singing, “When the Saints Go Marching In.” The elderly women were then dressed in robes and sang “Amazing Grace” with the choir. Peggy says, “Many of the elderly are transported in the vans from their nursing homes and they arrive at the ball hunched over with their heads down, almost with the attitude of ‘what now?’ but by the time they leave they are laughing and smiling and waiting in anticipation for next year’s ball.”
What do you do to minister with the frail elderly? How do you value them and encourage them to dream?
If you are looking for some resources, here are a few to check out:
Second Wind Dreams is an organization dedicated to helping fulfill the dreams of elders, especially those in long-term care communities.
Desert Ministries is a great ministry devoted to serving the elderly living in nursing homes.