There are a lot of ways this COVID-19 pandemic and the response to it have changed us. We have changed as individuals and as communities, and as a country. We have also changed in regard to our care and acknowledgement of those who are older and live around us.
I am sure you have read, and perhaps even experienced, the heart breaking stories of Older Adults who lived in nursing homes passing away. While that is not terribly unusual, that they have passed separated from family is a terrible new reality that many families have suffered through. Hopefully, at the time these precious people were welcomed into their heavenly home they were not alone completely, but with staff of their facility. But they were not with their loved ones.
Heart-Breaking & Heart-Wrenching
I just recently read a heart-warming and simultaneously heart-wrenching story about a woman who has taken a job as a dish washer at the nursing home facility where her husband lives just so she can see him. My husband’s aunt visits her husband daily at a VA nursing home and they talk on the phone from opposite sides of a window. His cognitive function sometimes allows him to participate in the conversation and other times not. But after 57 years of marriage, they cannot even hold hands. Devastating.
Until March I had visited an Assisted Living twice a month for Bible study with several residents. We are entering the 5th month where I have not been able to go. I know the residents are being cared for, but they have been confined to their small rooms. Some of those who were able to roll themselves down the hallway of the facilities in their wheelchairs are no longer able to do so.
Even Older Adults in their own homes are experiencing decline in their physical abilities and experiencing cognitive decline as well. You may ask my source for this information. It is through talking with Older Adults and those who live with or care for them that I am learning this sad story.
Time to Be Creative
I certainly realize the need to protect the most vulnerable among us from COVID-19 exposure. These most vulnerable include Older Adults and those with pre-existing conditions such as obesity, diabetes, high-blood pressure, and heart disease. We can look at those factors another time and we will. For now, let’s explore how we can be creative in interacting with Older Adults.
Begin or Expand a Phone Ministry
Perhaps you already have a phone tree in your church that focuses its attention on your Older Adults, especially those who are more confined to home or live alone. If not, this is the perfect time to begin one. Consult with the pastor or someone or several someones in your church who would know who the most vulnerable in the church are. Make a list with names and phone numbers and any information regarding the best time to call. Every person on that list has different needs and this includes how often to call.
Some would love to hear from someone everyday. Others every couple of weeks is great. This may feel tricky to figure out, but let the person guide you on this one. These calls can just be for a general check-in to see how they are fairing and see if they have any other needs that the church family may be able to help with. Enlist a group of volunteers to make these calls.
Groceries Might Be Just What They Need
We are all aware that Older Adults among us seem to be most susceptible to this virus. They may be very hesitant to head to the grocery store. Offering to pick up groceries is an ideal way to help out. Get the word out to your congregation and let them know this grocery service is an option for them. Again, call on volunteers from the congregation to pitch in a serve. What a great way to meet people in the congregation you may have only seen from a distance before.
Speaking of Food
Being home, often alone, for long stretches of time can lead to boredom and loneliness, even depression. Perhaps you and your church family is not up for a grocery delivery service, but there may be a few who are occasionally up for making a second batch of baked goods or an extra pan of dinner to take to someone to share. We need to remember to keep our distance, but we can still delivery something and share a few minutes in conversation during delivery. What a great way to brighten up the day of Older Adults who probably are not seeing many people these days.
Groceries are not the only items an Older Adult might enjoy. One group I heard of calls their volunteers Porch Angels. They may drop off a variety of items needed by the Older Adult. These may be masks, magazines, puzzles, games, and anything else that might bring a smile to the face of an Older Adult.
A Neighborhood Driving Parade
This one requires some coordination, but what fun! Maybe some signs, streamers, balloons or otherwise decorated cars driving by and giving some great shout outs to the Older Adults!
Serenade Your Adults
Being careful to maintain safe distance, but perhaps your youth group choir and perform a great variation on what we normally think of as a Christmastime activity: Christmas Carols! I am sure the Older Adults would enjoy any songs your group might sing. Hymns, praise songs, show tunes, and yes, Christmas carols! What a great way for two groups in the church to meet during this time of COVID.
Technology to the Rescue!
There are mostly folks in your congregation and community who are intimidated by and unfamiliar with technology that can connect them during physical distancing. Many churches are streaming there worship services and this is great, but that need not be where connecting through technology ends. ZOOM, Skype, Web Ex and more can be used for Bible studies, games, guest speakers, and just some great time for socializing. We are working on adding a Weekly Wednesday Worship Service at Winter Grace Senior Ministries. We have just 2 episodes ( View Episode 1 ) up on our YouTube Channel so far, but many more (hopefully weekly soon) will be available. These are all great and doable ways to connect with those who are not able to get out of the house or just plain do not want to.
If your Older Adults receive email but are uncomfortable surfing the internet, simply send emails with links to what you are offering on-line. Make it so they need to take as few steps as possible and see how many might just join in.
But WAIT! There’s More!
I am sure there are dozens, if not hundreds, of more ideas that we can think of together that will make this time of COVID one where we come together and serve the Older Adults in our congregations and our communities.
Please share your ideas in the comments. Let’s enrich the lives of Older Adults. COVID need not get the best of us. Let’s continue to work to allow the Lord to bring out the best in us, look beyond ourselves, turn our focus on the Older Adults and “Turn Our Eyes Upon Jesus.”