There are now 11.8 million people over the age of 65 in the UK, with nearly every church reporting an increase in the number of older members. And with over 1 million older people saying they always or often feel lonely, and 41% of older people saying they feel out of touch with modern life, there is both an opportunity and urgent need for society to rethink its often misinformed view of the older generation – and an opportunity for those in later life to reflect on what they have to offer to their churches and communities.
Last year, five leading Christian charities, with years of experience of working with older people, teamed up to form a website-based resource which provides literature relating to many different aspects of later life, and helpful guidance and practical advice to anyone starting a work or group in their church or community.
This initiative, Faith in Later Life, was formed by the Salvation Army, London City Mission, the Pilgrims’ Friend Society (with support from the Outlook Trust), Mission Care and Keychange charity, and launched in October 2017. Faith in Later Life provides a library of resources relating to different aspects of later life, with helpful advice and suggestions for churches starting their own activities. The aim is to support churches and Christians in serving and empowering their own older members, as well as providing opportunities to show older people in the wider community – of all faiths or none – the hope, love and community found in the Church and ultimately found in Jesus.
The vision is for Christians to lead the change in our culture, and to see lives changed, with older people knowing their Kingdom value. It starts with individual churches affirming their older members and supporting those where it is needed.
Faith in Later Life is also a networking platform. UK churches run numerous activities for older people, including day centres, special interest groups and lunch clubs, and the website has an interactive map, where a click on a region will reveal the activities taking place in that area. An enquirer can decide whether to join activities or recommend them to a friend or relative.
A great concern in modern-day UK is the loneliness experienced by thousands of older people, whose families may be living in different parts of the country. So a daughter living in Leicester, whose mother lives in another part of the country, can find activities in the region and recommend them to her. She can also contact the church or Christian group involved.
Faith in Later Life was launched at the House of Lords in October last year, so is still relatively new and the website is being continually populated. But interest is growing. There are around 1,500 visitors to the website each month, and more than 1,000 followers across its social media communities.
Now we are looking for Faith in Later Life Church Champions, who will be a link with the movement and with their own church fellowship. We already have links with people, who are passionate about serving and empowering older people in their churches and beyond, and would like to see more joining us.
We’re also inviting churches to enter their events for older people onto the directory linked to the interactive map. To view the resources, activities directory, and all that Faith in Later Life has to offer, go to www.faithinlaterlife.org. Enquirers can also call 0300 303 8405.
Director, Faith in Later Life