Articles on Older Adult Ministries

Learning from the Dark Can Bring Insight

Jim Stinson, Consultant on Older Adult Ministries

August 01, 2015

One of my best memories of growing up in a crowded neighborhood in Brooklyn was the ride we took each summer at the end of June. We went as a family to a campground on Long Island, where we camped until school was ready to open after Labor Day in September. It was a time of near total freedom. My siblings and I would wander around the “woods” picking berries with our friends, hang out in the tree house we had constructed over the years with bits of lumber we found, and otherwise just do ...

Dishonesty May Be More Painful Than Illness

Jim Stinson, Consultant on Older Adult Ministries

June 01, 2015

“There has to be something very wrong with me. I can’t eat. I am losing weight. I have a lot of pain, unless I take a lot of medicine. My doctor and my family tell me not to worry. It is nothing that will not heal in time. But I don’t believe them! Why are they lying to me? I wish they would be honest with me. I feel like I can’t trust them.” How sad! And yet I hear older people express the same emotion many times. In this instance, I know she has end-stage cancer and the family has convinced ...

Just Listening is a Gift to the Dying

Jim Stinson, Consultant on Older Adult Ministries

May 01, 2015

“When it comes to dying, I’m an amateur. I haven’t done it—I think when I come to it, I will still be an amateur, somewhere between frightened and terrified.”  —Sam Keen, “Graceful Passages” Bingo! Sam Keen speaks to a reality that bypasses some of the death-denying language of our culture and our church—the language of “Don’t be afraid, let your faith carry you through this passage in your life.” “Don’t be afraid, we’ll be with you all the way.” Both statements can be comforting, and both of ...

“God Talk” May Hinder Caring Ministry

Jim Stinson, Consultant on Older Adult Ministries

April 01, 2015

After knocking on his door and asking permission to come in, I introduced myself to a new resident at Wicke Health Center, where I am the director of spiritual life. His response was similar to those I’ve heard many times over since taking this position. “You may not want to talk to me. I do not go to church, am not religious, and am not sure I believe in God.” “Well, I did not come to push church going or religious beliefs, I came to say hello, hopefully to get to know you, and to let you know...

“Growing Pains” Can Come at Any Age

Jim Stinson, Consultant on Older Adult Ministries

March 01, 2015

Some years ago we took our nearly teenaged son to the doctor. We did so because he was complaining of aches and pains all over his body. He was not showing signs of sickness or any overt reason for feeling as he reportedly felt. Yet we were convinced that his pains were real. With some trepidation, we awaited the results of the examination. With a smile on his face, the doctor announced there was nothing wrong with him other than “good old fashioned growing pains.” Who knew there was such a ...

We are Worthy, No Matter the Age

Jim Stinson, Consultant on Older Adult Ministries

February 01, 2015

“I got out of the shower, dried myself off, looked in the mirror, decided I looked good for someone over 90 years old, smiled, got dressed, and started my day.”  How often I am reminded why I love working with older people. That reminder came again this morning when the above was the answer to, “Good morning, how are you?” There is the embracing of life that so many older adults exhibit. It is so contagious. It made me smile. In fact, it made me think of so many older adults, riddled with so ...

Helping the Aging Find God in Between Us

Jim Stinson, Consultant on Older Adult Ministries

January 01, 2015

There is a wonderful children’s book called “God in Between,” by Sandy Eisenberg Sasso. It is one of the few books I kept when downsizing and moving to a condo. As with most children’s books, adults would do well to read it, too. It is the story of a windowless, roadless, overgrown town, and its people who sense something missing in their lives. People are cut off from one another, cannot watch or see anything beyond their own four walls. They sense that if they can find God (whose existence is...

Holiday Emotions Not Always Joyful Ones

Jim Stinson, Consultant on Older Adult Ministries

December 01, 2014

The holiday season is about over. For many that is a statement that is said with relief; for others it is said with a sense of wishing it could last a little longer. What should be a time for joy and celebration can actually be a time of sadness and relived loss. I’ve noticed in the last 50 plus years of pastoral ministry that the holiday seasons—which in my years of innocence were a pure delight—increasingly come and go with mixed feelings, not always with pure delight. I’ve performed ...

Loss of Routines Can Disrupt Sense of Belonging

Jim Stinson, Consultant on Older Adult Ministries

November 01, 2014

“What do you miss the most about being in your home of so many years?” That’s a question I often ask our newer residents when checking in on their adjustment to living in one of our communities at United Methodist Homes. Invariably the answer goes something like this, “I miss getting up, going downstairs, fixing a cup of coffee, enjoying it for awhile, having breakfast, and then going upstairs to wash and dress for the day.” Or, “I miss the daily routines, walking downtown, seeing neighbors, ...

Finding New Life in Saying Goodbye

Jim Stinson, Consultant on Older Adult Ministries

October 01, 2014

“It seems as if we’re always saying goodbye.” These words came from a resident at our United Methodist Home in Shelton, Conn. It speaks to an all too common experience of older adults. Inevitably, as we age, more and more of our loved ones and friends precede us in death. It speaks to a sense of loneliness often found among the aging. The comment got me thinking about the home’s upcoming annual memorial service. At this time, we will remember residents and staff members who have died during the...

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