Last night we attended a unique gathering of senior living and urban development innovators. Among them were architects, gerontologists, planners, and, of course, interested citizens. We learned of groundbreaking projects designed to make communities more livable for people of all ages. Since it was sponsored by AARP, the primary focus was on making life better for older adults. Interestingly, the agreed upon solution to most issues is to intentionally bring all generations together to provide support, engage with one another on all levels of life and ultimately, to thrive as a community.
I reflected back to over 20 years ago when we tried desperately to encourage local churches to consider how to develop and sustain intergenerational community. We pleaded with leaders to evaluate their ministries and their buildings to assure they were designed to include (and reach out to) older adults. We even created the “Is Your Church Senior Sensitive?” survey in order to give real data to the discussion. We used it once. Churches were not interested in making the community of faith a place for all generations to worship and do life together. In fact, increasingly, we saw ministry plans focus on families and children to the near exclusion of anyone over 50.
It is curious to me that given the demographics and the growing number of people becoming “older adults” that the local church would not embrace their presence and provide stimulating opportunities for discipleship and service. Dr. William Thomas, one of the most profound thinkers and leaders in the aging services network, reminded last night’s audience, “This morning when you woke up, the world’s population was the youngest it will ever be in your lifetime.” In other words, people over age 50 are rapidly outnumbering those who are younger!
And so, I appeal again to pastors and leaders within communities of faith to reconsider your priorities and plans– and assure people of all ages are represented. What is good for an 8-year-old in our churches is good for the 80-year-old: faith development (discipleship), teaching, fellowship, relationships, and service. There is a non-profit organization in Canada called “8 80 Cities” whose driving mission is: “We believe that if everything we do in our cities is great for an 8-year-old and an 80-year-old, then it will be great for all people.”
That just might be a concept for the church.
written by Leona Bergstrom, Director, Re-Ignite
Photos by CanStock #41037231 and 3674078