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New video explores ?gifts of aging’

Nov. 10, 2005

By Kathy L. Gilbert*

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — A new video produced by the United Methodist Church’s Board of Discipleship drives home the point that God’s call doesn’t end when a person retires and neither does the retiree’s value to the church.

“God didn’t call us to be Christians just until we reach a certain age,” says the Rev. Hazel Bennett, chairperson of the United Methodist Committee on Older Adult Ministries and one of the voices on “New Beginnings: The Gifts of Aging.”

The 20-minute video features vignettes demonstrating the active role older adults are playing in the life of the church and society.

In the United States, 35 million people are over the age of 65, and that number will rise to 70 million by 2030. In the United Methodist Church, about 62 percent of the members are 50 or older, says the Rev. Richard H. Gentzler Jr., director of the United Methodist Board of Discipleship’s Center on Aging and Older Adult Ministries.

“We cannot afford to allow the faith, wisdom and experience that abound in older adults to be lost or under utilized,” he says. “The church has the opportunity to reframe the experience of aging and help cultivate among older adults the qualities of spiritual maturity.”

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS photo by Kathy Gilbert

Alma Sloan of Creighton (Mo.) United Methodist Church is among those featured in the new video.
Developed by the Board of Discipleship’s Center on Aging and Older Adult Ministries in cooperation with the Committee on Older Adult Ministries, the video is meant to be “encouraging and hopeful,” Gentzler says.

The average person in the United States may enjoy 20 to 30 more years of life in relatively good health and with sufficient income after reaching 60, Gentzler says. Myths about older adults portray them as quiet, calm and disengaged from life, work and service.

“Interesting, nowhere in the Bible does it say that Christians are to retire from discipleship,” Gentzler says. “Rather, we are invited and encouraged to plan for new activities and pursuits that bring joy and satisfaction in later years.”

The video takes a look at aging in society and offers a glimpse into the lives of older adults, such as 94-year-old Alma Sloan, who has been baking communion bread for Creighton (Mo.) United Methodist Church since 1976. In another vignette, Ray and Ruth Thompson, both in their 70s, collect day-old baked goods and distribute them to the needy in their community seven days a week. Other stories on the video show older adults tutoring children, repairing homes and learning new skills.

“Older adults need a safe place to work through the next phase of their lives,” says Elbert Cole, executive director and founder of Shepherd's Centers of America and a member of the Committee on Older Adult Ministries.

Bishop Violet L. Fisher, New York West Area, says people who are aging are feeling left out. “Too much emphasis has been placed on the baby boomers and Generation Xers.”

Suanne Ware-Diaz, on staff with the United Methodist Commission on Race and Religion in Washington, sums up the value of including older adults in the life of the church: “We need you.”

“New Beginnings: The Gifts of Aging” is available in DVD and VHS formats at $15 each. It was produced by United Methodist Communications and is available for ordering at A leader’s guide has also been developed and is available for free at or by contacting the Center on Aging and Older Adult Ministries, P.O. Box 340003, Nashville, TN 37202-0003; phone: (877) 899-2780, Ext. 7177; fax: (615) 340-7071; or e-mail

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