According to Moses Znaimer, founder and CEO of ZoomerMedia Limited, “Everybody wants to live long, but nobody wants to be ‘Old’.”
What do you think of when you hear the words “senior” or “senior citizen?” Seniors are a growing group in Canada. Our seniors are both older and younger than ever. Life expectancies are growing and people are living longer. Residents in their 90s or 100s is not unusual in many care homes. At the same time, the word “senior” is applied to an ever younger group. A few decades ago, you needed to be age 60 or 65 to receive a senior’s discount; now sometimes even 50-year-olds qualify.
Many institutions in Canada segregate by age and churches are no exception. We may all gather to worship but may not interact much during worship time. The gatherings, groups, and Sunday school classes are often broadly age defined—the children go here, the youth go there, the seniors meet in this space and the rest of the group meets somewhere else. I’m simplifying, of course. We can learn much from each other, both from those who are just a little farther down the road we’re travelling and from those who travelled that road many years before. Some details may have changed but the big questions often remain the same from generation to generation:
What is my purpose in life?
What does God want from me?
Will I get through this valley?
Where is God?
Sometimes what we really need is assurance that this will pass, that God does love us and that those around us care and pray for us. Sometimes we need practical advice on dealing with loved ones, transitions, and the challenges that life can bring our way. Often we need both. Our seniors are life specialists and have much to offer—time, experience, knowledge, and wisdom.
Many of the folks that pay close attention to my travels are seniors. They let me know on Sunday mornings that they are holding me in prayer for safe travels, clear words and a calm spirit. It’s wonderful to know that I’m remembered and held in prayer even when I’m away from my congregation.
So how can churches help bridge the generation gap? You could interview your seniors and share the information with the congregation. You could hold intergenerational events where all ages are mixed together. Youth and seniors could cook together and share a meal, tie comforters, quilt or can fruit and vegetables. Some congregations pair older and younger members of the congregation including youth, young adults and young families and help establish cross-generational friendships.
The Bible is full of seniors who followed the direction of God and did surprising and wonderful things. Abraham and Sarah were seniors when they finally had a baby. Elizabeth and Zachariah were older when they gave birth to John. Moses was past middle age when he led the Israelites out of Egypt. What are the amazing things that seniors are doing in your congregation? What can these life specialists in your congregation teach you?
Sherri Grosz is a stewardship consultant at the Kitchener, Ontario office of Mennonite Foundation of Canada. For stewardship education and estate and charitable gift planning, contact your nearest MFC office or visit www.mennofoundation.ca