The Gift of Years: Living and Working as an Older Adult
May is Older Americans Month. I am an older adult, 67 to be exact, and I am pleased with where I am in life. My body needs a bit more time and attention than I used to give it. As I’m retired, though, I have the time and it’s necessary for the long run. And I do plan on being around for the long run. 70. 80. 90. And beyond.
As my body calls for more, so does my spirit.
I know that I have not reached spiritual perfection (far from it!) and so I’m eager to continue the journey of growing in my spirit.
As Joan Chittister, Benedictine nun, theologian and author, wrote in ‘The Gift of Years’ , “We have to want the newness of older age in order to make it the energizing period it has the power to be. It is not a period without purpose. It is not a time of rampant narcissism. It is the point of life in which everything we learned up until this point can now be put to use.”
While I grow in my spirit and put to use what I’ve learned, I want to help others in their work of harvesting every bit out of this gift of extended life, too!
The Older Adult (OAM) Ministry Program helps participants in their spiritual journey but also trains them on how to support other OAs as they continue to grow in their faith and contribute mightily to their community.
While OA’s want to grow a stronger faith and gain a deeper understanding of their beliefs like all generations, important differences for working with OA’s include:
- What resources on faith and theology resonate with OA’s experiences?
- How does the leader best ensure the information is embraced and understood?
- Which methods of teaching and learning encourage inclusion?
Thankfully, the Center for Lifelong Learning OAM programs address these exact areas: The Process of Aging and Implications for Ministry; Teaching for Transformation; Theological Reflections, and Spiritual Formation.
The Process of Aging and Implications for Ministry helped participants maneuver websites such as the National Institute on Aging, Administration on Aging, and National Council on Aging to make sure we knew valid websites to practice Information Vetting.
Teaching for Transformation introduced teaching and learning methods to incorporate the theory of multiple intelligences so that those we work with have a variety of ways to connect to the information, sparking creativity.
Theological Reflections included viewing “The Straight Story,” a film based on the true story of Alvin Straight’s 1994 journey across Iowa and Wisconsin on a lawnmower, followed by a discussion to model the use of a movie and discussion guide as an approach for OA ministry (Sweeney, Edelstein & Sarde, 1999).
Finally, in Christian Spiritual Formation, we did a bit of soul searching as we ventured outside to gather pieces of nature which resonated with our spiritual journey and then described to the class why the items were chosen.
I tremendously enjoyed each class. The instructors fully engaged all participants and invigorated the material with music, video clips, art tables and exercises. There was never a dull moment!
So how am I using my newfound knowledge?
For one, I’ve presented five sermons based on material from the classes at my small country church.
I developed and led four OA Sunday School lessons on prayer including praying with the body, such as walking a labyrinth.
As the chair of my presbytery’s Third Thirty Network, I have built up the network’s knowledge base with the many resources shared during the classes.
Finally, I’m using my capstone on life review for another set of OA classes which I’m sharing not only within my presbytery but also with my hospice clients.
Churches often tend to welcome incorporating current, interesting methods and programs into their practices, be it sharing the information at governance meetings, teaching a Sunday School class, or delivering a sermon.
In addition, senior living communities and senior centers are also interested in learning about the OA material.
You might have to seek to find but the journey will be exciting.
To find out more about the Center for Lifelong Learning Older Adult Ministry Program, contact:
Sarah Erickson Director, Lifelong Learning/OAM Program Coordinator EricksonS@CTSnet.edu
Patricia Baker POAMN President- Elect/OAM Certificate Program Advisor Presbyterian Older Adult Ministry Network firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Janet E. Miller serves her community in various capacities including building with Habitat for Humanity locally and internationally, visiting hospice clients, leading her presbytery’s Third Thirty OA network and leading Sunday School classes. She is a graduate of the CLL Older Adult Ministry Certificate Program with her capstone on life reviews and a member Presbyterian Older Adult Ministry Network (POAMN). Janet is a retired Human Factors Engineer from the United States Air Force (USAF). Janet, her husband, J.O., and their five children and families all reside in Ohio. Her email address is email@example.com
 Chittister, Joan. The Gift of Years: Growing Older Gracefully. Katonah, NY: BlueBridge. 2008.  Sweeney, M., Edelstein, N and Sarde , A. (Producers) & Lynch, D. (Director). (1999). The Straight Story (Motion Picture). United States: Walt Disney Pictures