There are more than 11.9 million people aged 65 and over in the UK, with this figure projected to rise in the next 17 years to over 16 million. Of this group, 49 per cent say the television or their pet is their main company, with more than 1 million older people admitting that they always or often feel lonely.
It seems that older people are so easily forgotten by society, written off as they are deemed unable to make a contribution in their later years. But this isn’t true. Psalm 92:13-14 tells us: “…they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green”.
Betty is a prime example of an older person flourishing in God’s service and still bearing fruit. Asked by her local church to come up to the front to share a bit about her ministry, Betty, aged 99, said that whilst she couldn’t do much physically anymore, she was someone who prayed. Unbeknown to many in the congregation, she had been praying for her church, and people inside and outside the church for 70 years. Betty humbly revealed how she regularly sought prayer requests from people by sending emails from her iPad.
On a mission to hear more stories like Betty’s, Faith in Later Life (www.faithinlaterlife.org) was established in 2017 by a group of Christian charities that have been engaging and sharing the gospel with older people for hundreds of years (London City Mission, The Salvation Army, Keychange, Pilgrims’ Friend Society, and Mission Care), to enable individual Christians and churches to reach, serve and empower older people in every community. Faith in Later Life is also keen to shine a light on the gifts and wisdom that older Christians have, often built up over a lifetime of following Jesus.
If we start to re-examine our assumptions about older people, we can gain so much. At the end of a recent ‘seniors afternoon session’ at a church, it was uplifting to hear a member of the church say how revitalised she felt, having woken that morning questioning her usefulness.
It’s been exciting to see Faith in Later Life grow over the last year or so. We recently launched a national network of ‘church champions’, people in their church who want to share what we do, encourage seniors’ ministry, or just stay updated with how we are seeking to bring together activity in this area, across churches everywhere. What a great encouragement it was to hear from an 81 year old who wanted to become a church champion because “she had a passion for helping the older people” in her church.
We envision a Society where Christians are leading the change, starting by serving and affirming the older members of their congregations, but also empowering them, recognising all the gifts and wisdom they have, as well as the faith that has guided them throughout their lives.
To view the resources, activities directory and all that Faith in Later Life has to offer, go to www.faithinlaterlife.org