We are an ageing society. As the general population ages, so do the members of our churches. The foundational members of our churches are experiencing chronic illness, dementia, physical limitations and isolation, and many are not able to physically join in the faith life of the community. We are all called as Christians to be a model of Jesus to care for the sick, comfort the isolated and mourn with the grieving. Jesus himself suffered, grieved and knew pain: in serving our sisters and brothers, we serve him by seeing Christ in all people.
Some members of the Church community who have special gifts are asked to use these gifts to bring the faith community to those who cannot join us in person.
In previous generations, people lived in the same neighbourhoods as their extended families, who shared the care of the children and ageing family members. In 1981, social worker Dorothy Miller coined the term “sandwich generation” to describe women in their 30s to 40s who were “sandwiched” between young children and aging parents as the primary caregiver. Today, seniors are living longer; the age of the sandwich generation has increased from 40 to 65 years, and includes both men and women as caregivers. Families are mobile and often do not live near ageing parents. In most families, both spouses work, and still they take on the caregiver role for both their children and their elderly parents.
We are a less communal generation. Faith and involvement in the church by the current younger generations is not a priority; they may be growing away from their faith with all the pressures of everyday life. The elderly in our communities, meanwhile, may lose touch with their faith community as they end up in hospital, move into retirement homes or long-term care facilities, or leave their local faith community to live with family.