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Church plans annual celebration of older adults

Louise Short, 102, greets the 2008 United Methodist General Conference in Fort Worth, Texas. A resident of Nashville, Tenn., Short is the widow of
Bishop Roy Short. A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose.

By Kathy L. Gilbert*
May 22, 2008 | FORT WORTH, Texas (UMNS) 

An annual Older Adult Recognition Day will be held in The United Methodist Church starting in 2009 to celebrate older adults.

The 2008 General Conference, the denomination's top lawmaking body, voted to add an Older Adult Recognition Day to the special observances on the church's calendar. The day is to be observed annually, preferably during the month of May.

The day is intended to provide congregations with the opportunity to learn more about the issues and concerns related to aging and older adulthood. The Committee on Older Adult Ministries, Board of Discipleship, will have responsibility for supervising and promoting the observance.

During the April 23-May 2 international gathering, the denomination revised its resolution on aging in the United States to include the latest information from the U.S. Census Bureau. Updated information shows people are living longer, and by 2032, there will be 72 million people 65 years of age and older in the United States. The average United Methodist is at least 60 years old, according to the committee.

Older adult ministries

The church's Comprehensive Plan for Older Adult Ministries for 2009-2012 will emphasize intergenerational ministry and caregiving ministry.

Intergenerational ministry will build understanding between younger people and older adults by promoting the gifts, faith and wisdom of each age group.

The Census Bureau projects that by 2030, there will be more older adults in the United States than children and youth combined. Intentional church-based caregiving will become more necessary as federal entitlements are cut and family structures change.

“We need new models of old age for our coming maturity.”
– Comprehensive Plan for Older Adult Ministries

Two hundred years ago, people didn't retire; they just "worked until they wore out," according to the comprehensive plan. Medical and scientific advances mean people are living longer, and post-retirement can be 25 to 35 years or more.

Some of the more alarming statics about aging include the rising rate of dementia for those 85 and older. In 2000, more than 4 million people in the United States had Alzheimer's disease, and it is predicted that by 2050, 16 million could have the disease.

"In many ways, we haven’t determined the modern purpose of a longer, healthier old age," the comprehensive plan states. "To what use do we put the incredible resource of elderhood? How do we help older adults continue to grow in faith as disciples of Jesus Christ? We need new models of old age for our coming maturity."

*Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.  

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