[Editor’s note: Marie Villeza of ElderImpact.org shares helpful tips on how to integrate seniors of various Christian denominations into community groups & activities with her guest article.]
by Marie Villeza
Seniors enjoy socializing and participating in community groups and activities, but it may be difficult for them to get involved in their own churches if they don’t offer opportunities for senior members. That’s why getting seniors involved in ecumenical community groups and activities is a solution for many areas around the country.
Seniors of various Christian denominations enjoy spending time together in Christian unity, without feeling tied to one particular church or congregation, when they participate in these sorts of community groups and activities. If you’re looking to involve seniors in ecumenical community groups and activities, here are a few tips to get you started.
Involve Church Leaders, Priests, and Pastors
One of the first steps toward involving seniors in ecumenical community groups and activities is to involve church leaders, priests, and pastors in the process so they can be the points of contact and welcome seniors from various congregations. Often, the church leaders, priests, and pastors know which seniors would be interested in participating in the groups and activities and can offer support for organizing them. These church leaders can also plan any services that will be held at gatherings. Or, they can pray with the groups for the unity of all Christians and extend the prayer to regular church services.
Provide Groups and Activities that Appeal to Seniors at Large
One of the best ways to get seniors involved in ecumenical community groups is to create an activity center that welcomes all seniors and offers a broad range of options. In fact, ecumenical centers already in existence are most successful when they offer groups and activities that appeal to seniors at large. For example, they may offer sewing groups, shopping groups, and dining out groups. Seniors also might enjoy playing bingo, shuffleboard, and other games that keep their minds and bodies agile.
The activity center could also offer seminars and presentations on issues that have a specific impact on senior lives. Some possibilities include educational seminars on topics like elder abuse, will and trusts, conservatorships, guardianships and dementia, and seniors’ rights. Be sure the speakers and presenters are willing to take questions so that attendees can do more than just listen. It’s also a good idea to have a sound system and adaptive equipment available for senior participants.
Use Technology to Your Advantage
Technology doesn’t have to be an isolation tool; instead, leverage it to your advantage to bring your ecumenical group together. Talk to your church leaders about recording their sermons; if a senior feels particularly moved by one of them, or a section of it, he or she can bring it to the group to listen together and discuss it. It can be a fun, interactive Bible study that spans across all denominations, and an excellent way to communicate all kinds of different ideas.
You can also use video calling to chat with elders who couldn’t attend an event, let interested seniors “sit in” on a group discussion to see if they’re interested in joining, or easily have a face-to-face meeting or counseling session with a church leader.
Involve Family Members and Young Adults from the Community
One of the most popular ecumenical activities for seniors is a Grandparents Day or Night that gives entire families the opportunity to celebrate senior family members through fellowship. Ecumenical senior centers are ideal locations for these events, but they also may be held on a rotating basis at churches around the area. Often, these events include refreshments, music, photos, and a time for sharing stories and joys.
Keep in mind, however, that not all of the seniors will have family nearby, so it is a good idea to incorporate community members through an Adopt a Grandparent program. The idea behind these programs is to match a senior with a young adult in the community who will visit and spend time with them. Faith-based groups frequently host these programs, and ecumenical community centers are the perfect places to join seniors and young people together. The best part is that the Adopt a Grandparent programs benefit both the seniors and the young adults, who can learn from one another.
By making all Christian seniors, regardless of their denomination, feel welcome, ecumenical community groups have more success in involving seniors in their activities. Keeping seniors’ interests and needs in mind also entices them to become involved in the ecumenical groups and activities on a regular basis. The key is to make the activities worth their time and fun!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Marie Villeza was inspired to start ElderImpact.org after she watched her son teach her father how to play Angry Birds™ on his smartphone. In that moment, she realized the importance of bringing the generations together so they can usher each other into the future, breaking down walls of fear and time. In her free time, she enjoys gardening, hiking, and taking part in her monthly book club.