Every May, The United Methodist Church invites local churches to celebrate Older Adult Recognition Day during Older Americans Month (OAM). Church leaders are invited to provide opportunities during May — whether on a Sunday morning during worship or on other days and times — for recognizing the legacy, unique gifts, and challenges of older adults.
The 2022 theme is Age My Way. It focuses on aging in place and how older adults can plan to stay in their homes and live independently in their communities for as long as possible. Older adults’ time, experience, faith, wisdom, and love benefit their families, neighbors, church, and community. Being able to live independently is a major emphasis for many older adults.
Older adults play vital, positive roles as family members, friends, mentors, volunteers, civic leaders, members of the workforce, and more. Just as every person is unique, so too is how people age. There is no “right” way because throughout their lives, people have different experiences, challenges, and opportunities.
While Age My Way may look different for each person, there are elements everyone can consider:
- Planning — Think about what you will need and want in the future, from home and community-based services to community activities that interest you.
- Engagement — Remain involved and contribute to your community through work, volunteer, and/or civic participation opportunities.
- Access — Make home improvements and modifications, use assistive technologies, and customize supports to help you better age in place.
- Connection — Maintain social activities and relationships to combat social isolation and stay connected to your community.
A Sunday set aside to recognize older adults gives congregations the opportunity to challenge our inclusion of all persons into the full life of the Church. This can be a time when older adults offer their gifts and graces to the congregation and to God as participants, liturgists, and leaders in this celebration.
As you celebrate this special Sunday, let it be an opportunity for the congregation to focus on the positive aspects of aging as well as the needs of older adults. Use it as a time to address the accessibility of the church buildings, to look more closely at programs and ministries, and to listen to the voices of the older adults as they share their dreams and visions as well as their experiences along their spiritual journeys.
As you lay the groundwork to celebrate Older Adult Recognition Day, involve older adults in planning and leading the service. If you have a Sunday school class that is primarily made up of older persons, meet with them for an informal discussion around plans for celebrating Older Adult Recognition Day.
Scripture Ideas for Sermon Starters
- Leviticus 19:32 — You shall rise before the aged, and defer to the old; and you shall fear your God.
- Job 12:12 — Is wisdom with the aged, and understanding in length of days?
- Psalm 71:9 — Do not cast me off in the time of old age; do not forsake me when my strength is spent.
- Psalm 71:18 — So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to all the generations to come.
- Psalm 92:12, 14 — The righteous flourish like the palm tree, and grow like a cedar in Lebanon…. In old age they still produce fruit; they are always green and full of sap.
- Psalm 148:12-13 — Young men and women alike, old and young together! Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted; his glory is above earth and heaven.
- Proverbs 16:31 — Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life.
- Proverbs 20:29 — The glory of youth is their strength, but the beauty of the aged is their gray hair.
- Isaiah 46:3a, 4 — Listen to me, O house of Jacob…even to your old age I am [God], even when you turn gray, I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save.
- Micah 6:8 — …what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.
- Luke 5:39 — And no one after drinking old wine desires new; but says, “The old is good.”
- Acts 2:17 — In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.
Bring your congregation together to connect, create, and contribute. There are countless approaches to planning activities like this. Below are a few ideas to help you get started.
- Arrange a sit-down meal to celebrate OAM and consider recognizing older members for their accomplishments
- Plan a game day, crafting activity, or day trip that brings people together in the name of fun
- Encourage older adults to share their faith stories and experiences, perhaps around a certain theme
- Plan a virtual activity for older adults who, as a result of the pandemic or who are home-centered. are unable to attend in-person, so they can participate in the Recognition of Older Adult Day celebration
- Offer a class on computers and social media to help people become comfortable connecting online
- Plan a resource fair to inform older adults about services and supports available to them in the community
- Inspire older adults to express themselves through art, dance, exercise, or other personal enrichment activities
- Host a workshop for older adults on key issues like scam/fraud awareness, starting a new career, personal finance, nutrition, or safety
- Create a virtual village to bring older adults in your community together through an online forum. Virtual events can cover topics related to aging in place
- Coordinate one or a series of betterment activities for older adults living in the community (e.g., yard cleanup, minor home maintenance, home choir service)
- Provide transportation and visitation ministry so that older adults can remain active and engaged in the church and community
- Use social media to connect older adults with resources and each other
For more older adult ministry ideas, visit the ENCORE Ministry website at www.encoreministry.org or Administration for Community Living at https://acl.gov/oam/2022/older-americans-month-2022.
Dr. Richard Gentzler, director, oversees ENCORE Ministry’s mission of providing older adult ministry resources, leader training, and consultations. For more information, email Gentzler at email@example.com or call 615-400-0539.