Really ‘seeing’ the elderly this Christmas

By December 11, 2018

USA (MNN) — Elderly adults who require home healthcare suffer from depression rates at 13.5 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Senior hospital patients aren’t far behind with 11.5 percent experiencing depression.

It’s easy for the elderly to feel forgotten and overlooked in today’s fast-paced society. Eric Verstraete, President of Life Matters Worldwide, says he was struck recently by a conversation he had with an elderly gentleman.

“I was stood up for a breakfast meeting and I saw this gentleman sitting across the way, an older guy, and I decided to go and join him. He was a Vietnam veteran [and] also a World War II veteran. As I talked with him, we spent almost two hours.

“He said a very profound thing to me at the end. He said, ‘Eric, thanks for seeing me today.’

“That really touched my heart. I realized that because we get so busy in our lives, we don’t truly see the people around us the way Jesus really wants us to.”

Verstraete says the Church has a critical role to play in reaching elderly folks who feel left behind in our communities. However, sometimes it’s easy for churches to focus more on growth among the younger generations and undervalue the older population.

“The elderly in many churches or even in families at times are being a bit marginalized in our society today. They are not seen as an asset anymore. They are seen somewhat as a liability. This population just has so much to give. I think loneliness is a really big issue with this population and that stems into all kinds of other problems that can result from that.”

The holidays can especially be lonely for the elderly. They may have lost family, live very far away from loved ones, or even be limited in other ways from engaging with community for Christmas.

“I think as we move forward through this holiday season, the importance of family certainly is always a highlight for most folks. So [we want] to encourage those family members who may not be at the forefront all the time. How do we care for them? If we do that in our families, I think that’s going to transfer into how we love our Church family even better.”

Life Matters is encouraging churches to better care for the elderly with the ministry’s LIFT program. LIFT stands for ‘Living In Faith Together’ and is essentially a ministry model that people in the Church can use to reach older folks.

Verstraete this outreach can present itself in “very practical ways like companionship or even helping with personal care, transportation, home care, or even money management!

“From a church perspective, we’re not asking leadership to start new programs. We’re just simply asking them to get lay people involved — those in their church congregations — to really catch the vision for ‘what does it really look like to care for this group of people better than we ever have before?’”

Verstraete says the heart behind LIFT is rooted in John 13:34-35 when Jesus said to His disciples, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

If you would like to learn more about LIFT and how to incorporate it into your own church community, click here to visit Life Matters’ website! Or you can give their office a call at 616-257-6800.

“They have a lot of gifts to give. We want an organization like a church to be in such a place where no one in the church should age alone and that this population will finish well, will leave a legacy, and will impact the next generation.”

Verstraete asks, “Pray that God moves in the heart of people to see, and I mean really see this population.”

 

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