Aging Population: Is the Church Ready?

Most people have strong opinions about religion and spirituality. By the time they are into middle adulthood whether they attend a place of worship or not, or how often they attend, has pretty much been established. Interestingly enough as they enter their senior years their spiritual needs tend to change.

When people are young they are busy living life; going to school, raising a family, working on their career. By the time people reach senior citizen status they have usually formed strong spiritual habits.

The question now is whether the church is ready for the next wave of senior citizens.

Many churches not equipped for the vast number of seniors beginning to go to church or renewing their bonds with their local church or parish. Pastors are finding they are not equipped to deal with the spiritual aspects of their aging population. Some churches have activities for seniors such as a bible study, bingo, potlucks, or some other type of get together while others do not have such activities.

However, where many churches struggle is with such in-depth issues as death and dying or the end-of-life issues that are a growing concern to many seniors and their caregivers. Most spiritual leaders lack training in the area of geriatrics and struggle with what to say to those who come to them for advice.

Beginning steps

Churches moving toward services that are more contemporary sometimes throw in an occasional hymn to pacify the seniors, and larger churches may have a separate service for the more conservative attendee. However, for the most part these moves are cosmetic compared to the real needs of the older church population.

Better yet, the larger, more progressive churches now provide transportation, listening aids for the hard of hearing, larger print for easier reading, and services broadcast on a local TV channel for those who are home bound.

As the baby boomer swell enters their early sixties, in order to stay relevant more churches will need to address the concerns of their aging population.

Baby boomers as a group tend toward independent thinking and activism. It will be interesting to see how the church handles its current senior population and the growing number of aging boomers who are beginning to fill their pews on Sunday.


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