Aged people are all around us and their numbers are increasing. We are all affected in one way or another.
“Researchers are finding that if we think about getting older in terms of decline or disability, our health will suffer. But if we see ageing in terms of opportunity and growth, we improve our prospects for our senior years.” (Anne Tergeson) That is why it is encouraging that “our Parish commits itself to ministry to parishioners who are in the 65+ age range”. (Parish Report April 2014)
Pastoral care is an integral part of the program with many people ministered to in their own homes or Aged Care Facilities. Visits can include prayer, Bible reading, Holy Communion, grief counselling, dementia care, support for carers, liaising with chaplains and support for changed personal circumstances. A telephone call is also appreciated.
There are also many avenues of support through services of worship, belonging to a parish group, individual contact as well as the monthly activity of Cuppacomalong. Volunteering to help with the Aged Care program is always appreciated.
Education is a key element with this program to ensure that, not only older people are assisted in their understanding, but also that all ages can be given the opportunity to learn 'about growing old'.
Last year, three seminars were offered at St John's which were open to the parish, the Diocese and the community: 'Who Am I? Who Are You?' by Professor Bruce Stevens; 'The Paradox and Promise of Later Life' by Professor Elizabeth MacKinlay; and, 'Spiritual Reminiscence and Dementia' by Archdeacon Anne Ranse.
I was also able to attend the annual CAPS conference 'Faith and Fragility' as well as a workshop on Dementia run by Alzheimer's Australia. From time to time summaries focussing on aged care are inserted in the clergy column in the pew bulletin.
Support for this work occurs through the Aged Care Reference Group that works with me and who provides encouragement and direction: Rebecca Collette, Ailsa Curtis, Bev Forbes, Airdrie Isbister and John Lamb.
My bi-monthly report is forwarded to the Rector, Parish Council and the Aged Care Reference Group. Beyond the parish, support has come through Archdeacon Anne Ranse, Prof Bruce Stevens, Prof Elizabeth MacKinlay and Prof Jane Foulcher.
In twelve months’ time the present arrangement from the Joan Barrett Bequest which pays for my stipend ends. The Parish needs to be intentional in making strategic decisions for the future work in aged care ministry. We can be sure of one thing – the demands and challenges of the work will remain.
Kevin Stone, Aged Care Pastoral Coordinator
(this article is an excerpt from my report to the Annual General Meeting of the Parish)