In the Baptismal Covenant (BCP p. 304) we vow to respect the dignity of every human being. To respect the dignity of elders, parishes can implement some simple steps to ensure all are included in the worship and ministry of the church.

An easy first step is to address logistics. Questions to consider:

  1. Are facilities accessible throughout to those with mobility issues? Is there a smooth path from the drop off or handicapped parking spot to the building entrance?  Can everyone easily access Holy Eucharist?  Helpful considerations are ramps, railings, and appropriate seating, such as sturdy chairs with arms. Handicapped accessible restrooms are a given in new buildings. What about old buildings? Can everyone easily access restroom facilities. 
  2. Parishes want seniors to fully participate in worship, which can most easily be done when attention is paid to sound and sight. What about sound amplification and large font printed materials?
  3. How do elders get to church on Sunday? A ministry of transportation might be helpful for some. (Volunteer drivers need to be certified in Safeguarding God’s People, and receive a DMV driving check.)

Less tangible, but just as important, are these considerations:

  1. Are seniors included in ministry leadership and service? Many seniors wish to “retire” from service, but many wish to continue to serve. They’ve gained valuable experience and wisdom over the years. Be sure that there are opportunities for meaningful ministry for all ages.
  2. Is there a pastoral connection ministry in the parish? Who will notice if Mr. Jones is losing weight or Mrs. Smith’s memory loss is becoming problematic? If decline is observed, does the parish have contact information for distant adult children and/or next of kin who would want to be informed of parish concerns about their loved one?
  3. The limitations of aging can have an enormous impact on adult children. Consider a support group for people dealing with the challenges of aging parents.

Helpful Resources:

Alzheimer’s Association  Alzheimer’s Disease is the great fear of older adults—and their families.  Learn more about the disease and how to support the growing number of adults who face it. Parish participation in a local “Memory Walk” is a great way to show support for those afflicted and those who love them.

Arthritis Foundation

Elderly Protection Services Guide

Elder Care Suggested Reading

St. James House

The Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration

The Episcopal Church Older Adult Ministries

Translate »