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A new Ministry: Connecting with Seniors

In Washtenaw County, the fastest growing segment in our community overall are people 75 and older.  By 2040, life for everyone will be shaped to a great extent by how we respond now to the needs of the elderly.  With two decades to go, our community is not prepared to fully and justly support its growing senior population.  

An underlying issue, affecting all categories, is caregiving.  Professional caregivers burn out quickly.  Unpaid caregivers juggle many competing demands. Finally, all of the above challenges interconnect: access to transportation affects access to health care and nutritious food; unsafe housing or absence of an appropriate caregiver decreases the chances of aging in place; and so on.  

Recently, in a conversation at the church about aging and caregiving, a small group shared information on the kind of changes that people experience as they age and the stresses that typically arise, especially during the holidays for families, as a result of those changes. As we have worked on this ministry to serve seniors, we've been reminded of something Rosalyn Carter once said, "There are only four kinds of people in this world:  Those who have been caregivers, those who currently are caregivers, those who will be caregivers, and those who will need caregivers."  

We learned a lot from the attendees of our "Aging & Caregiving" conversation — particularly around their efforts to support aging family members like:  Why the holidays are challenging for the aged; why the holidays are a particularly stressful time for caregivers; and strategies that have been successful for attendees in easing the burden of caregiving.

We're already in the process of connecting with community members, different faith communities and social services agencies throughout Washtenaw County to establish a network of resources that are already in place to support seniors’ physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. Through the recruitment, development, and empowerment of Community Champions and Friendly Visitors, we hope to be part of a movement aiming to reduce the loneliness and social isolation of seniors.

We're using an approach suggested by staff from the Housing Bureau of Seniors. Each faith community will choose a Community Champion, who the Senior Connections ministry will train on the particular needs of seniors in their communities and the specific resources available to address those needs. These trained Champions will be able to build better linkages between their faith community, the seniors who are a part of it, the church’s senior neighbors and their caregivers, and the myriad of resources already available in the county. At the same time, Journey of Faith will train community members both within and outside the congregation to serve as Friendly Visitors, who will visit with one or more seniors, 1-2 times a week, simply to provide companionship.

Our next steps are to work on a "top ten list for family caregivers" based on the feedback we got from participants of the "Aging & Caregiving" conversation and get that out to folks over the next few weeks.  Journey of Faith has also submitted a grant to support the "Seniors Connection" ministry.  As Pastor Alex noted, "Journey of Faith should be hearing back very, very soon about the grant we submitted.  We're feeling pretty hopeful and will definitely let you know the outcome!"  Early next year, we'll be working on developing workshops on:  "What's normal aging?  What's not normal aging?" and "A Primer on Hospice Care."

Please feel free to contact the church office if you have questions or ideas about the things "the Church" can do to better serve seniors in our community.  We would appreciate your help and support!  Peace and blessings to you and yours in this season of love, new comings and hope!  

-- JOF Mission Team

“To care for those who once cared for us is one of the highest honors.”  ― Tia Walker

1900 Manchester Rd., Ann Arbor, MI 48104 | 734.971.4245 |