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Mar 02, 2011 | Luke Blount

Affirmation, Information on Aging Highlight Abundant Living Conference

The Rev. Dr. Helen Appelberg paints a picture
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The Abundant Living Conference convened for their 8th annual meeting this week at Camp Allen to “celebrate creative aging.” The three-day conference serves older adults (and care givers) with programs designed to facilitate active lives and to help people deal with the effects of aging.


“The program is open to everybody,” said the Rev. Dr. Helen Appelberg, conference coordinator and director for the Center for Spirituality of Aging at the Sealy Center for Aging of the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. “Some younger people bring their parents or grandparents. The oldest person we have here today is 90,” she said.


With approximately 90 participants, the Abundant Living Conference received a boost this year from the older adults ministry of Province VII of the Episcopal Church. Province VII sponsored the registration of one representative of each of its dioceses with the hopes of encouraging similar programming across the region, which includes Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas and the dioceses of Rio Grande, West Missouri and Western Louisiana. With this help, eight of the twelve dioceses were represented at the conference.


“This program is a model for the whole church,” said Ruth Ann Collins, guest speaker and missioner for lifelong Christian formation for the Episcopal Church.


Programming featured guest speakers ranging from the medical fields to the arts, and activities included cooking and art classes, line dancing, fishing and canoeing.


“It has really opened up the boundaries for me,” said first-time attendee Jeanne Weiss as tears welled up in her eyes. “It has given credence and affirmation to what I’m going through.”


Weiss was invited to the conference by her neighbor in Roundtop, Texas. Neither of them are Episcopalian. She was painting a picture with water colors as other participants walked around and commenting on others’ art work.


“I’ve been amazed by how much humor there has been,” Weiss said. “Some of these topics are profound and serious, but we can all laugh through it all.” Everyone came ready to participate and by the same token, no one turned down the sangria offered during a cooking demonstration of Mediterranean cuisine.


Appelberg, who recently turned 80, sees this ministry as a forgotten aspect of many church programs. She says that churches often survive financially through the benefits of older people, but there are few programs designed specifically for older adults.


“We have so many miles to go to collide with crisis of aging in today’s world,” Appelberg said. “We are excited about the opportunity to raise our voice.”


For more information about Province VII’s efforts for older adults, visit: and to inquire about future events, contact Helen Appelberg at .