Rev. Dr. Richard Gentzler, Jr.

In Leviticus we read, “You shall rise before the aged, and defer to the old; and you shall fear your God” (19:32). In many ancient and traditional cultures, the figure of the elder was revered.

“The elder was associated with wisdom, spirituality, compassion for other people, and care of the earth” (from the foreword in “Agency with Agency” by Sandi Peters, page xvi). Today, many older adults often experience social and cultural displacement, including loneliness and loss of purpose. In our culture, people fear growing old. Unless we make a conscious choice to reexamine our beliefs and understanding about old age and honestly consider the possibilities and complexities of aging, we inadvertently go along with the cultural norms and values concerning growing old.

During May, Older Americans Month is celebrated throughout our country. Churches are encouraged to revisit their understanding of growing old and to reframe aging in their congregation and community.

The United Methodist Church invites congregations to celebrate Older Americans Month during May by observing Older Adult Recognition Day. The 2021 theme as developed by the Administration for Community Living (www.acl.gov/oam) is Communities of Strength.

Older adults have built resilience and strength over their lives through successes, failures, joys, and difficulties. Their stories and contributions help to support, encourage, and inspire others. By observing Older Adult Recognition Day, churches are invited to celebrate the strength, faith, and wisdom of older adults and to encourage connection among all the generations.

Connecting with others is essential to our health and well-being. From finding joy in small things and sharing our stories, to looking at the big picture and giving to others, congregations can promote the ways older adults are connected and strong. Your congregation can play an important role by encouraging and connecting with older adults, people with disabilities, and others who are at increased risk from COVID-19 and feeling the weight of social isolation.

The good news is there are many ways we can connect even if we’re physically apart. Technology has opened many virtual doors, making it possible for people to share experiences, even while physically apart. Older Adult Recognition Day provides a great opportunity for churches to connect with older adults, even when having to do so virtually.

Commit to connect more actively and regularly with family, friends, and neighbors. Make sure they are ok and help them connect to services and resources they may need.

Helpful suggestions for planning an Older Adult Recognition Day Celebration can be found here. As we move beyond the pandemic, I encourage you to revisit this resource for creative ministry ideas as we move into a new normalcy in the year ahead.

For more information about and resources for intentional ministry by, with, and for older adults, visit other pages within this website.