Christians on Ageing – originally Christian Council on Ageing – was launched with a meeting at Westminster Cathedral Conference Centre May 1982 and became a Registered Charity 1984. Early meetings were at a draughty mansion in Staffordshire.
People came together to promote the needs of older people in the churches for help with their spiritual and emotional growth, and to counter the apparent lack of interest, even antipathy, within church communities to the issues and realities of later life. This remains our raison d’être.
Since the 1980s a number of other charities have been established which seek to improve the circumstances of older people in both secular and faith circles. Christians on Ageing has maintained ties with all the main Christian denominations, who contribute to its cadre of patrons, and seeks to relate to other faith organisations, including Faith in Older People, and to secular movements for positive ageing.
Despite our 39 years history we are a small charity with no formal office base. Work is done by volunteers. In recent years meetings of the executive were held at the URC Church in Sheffield. We held a successful conference there in 2019 and would hope to return to that pattern of meetings when the Covid-19 pandemic has abated. For the present we meet using Zoom, with email, telephone and snail-mail between times.
The modus operandi is to remain alert to issues which are important to older Christians through the activities of members and the executive and to respond with action including commentary, advice, events and publications: ‘A resource to the Churches’.
Our website has become an important vehicle for bringing together and distributing information: Christian Council on ageing – for older people and their life of faith and hope. (christiansonageing.org.uk). There is a review and brief commentary on issues ‘old’ which have featured in the media each week. The Dementia Network, led by Reverend Doctor Albert Jewell, produces a six-monthly newsletter which summarises developments and concerns in the field. An ‘occasional’ e-newsletter appears now four times in the year and carries news of development, planned events and commentary and information on relevant initiatives elsewhere.
‘Conference Calls’ have emerged as our way of exploring matters in some depth with gatherings of up to 20 participants on Zoom, firstly as an alternative to a conference – but so worthwhile that they are likely to continue. Topics covered have included: Older and disabled people in care homes, The needs of older Christians in the BAME communities, The challenge of grief, Self-isolation amongst older people at home, Recruitment and retention of volunteers, Support of carers of people with dementia, Art and Nature in dementia care. We have forthcoming sessions on mental illness amongst old people during the pandemic, and the narratives of older Christians.
Christians on Ageing has published ‘plus’, a quarterly magazine for members, for many years. Plus carries articles from a range of contributors on a serendipity of topics – Current developments, enduring concerns and needs, reviews of books and other publications, poems, quizzes, jokes, hobby horses and more. In addition booklets have been prepared which address issues which matter to older Christians: dying, faith, spirituality, love, dementia, resuscitation, meditation, worship and being a voice for older people. These are available at modest cost.
We are pleased to respond to questions from anyone. During the past twelve months we have contributed to events with Luther King House, The Nazarene College, and Alzheimer’s Disease International. We have provided comments for the House of Lords Report on Ageing and Society, spoken on radio programmes and been interviewed by a student at City University.
Christians on Ageing maintains an open agenda, responsive to the needs and interests of older Christians but certain areas have attracted sustained attention. These include:
- The support of older prisoners. We are about to publish a collection of prayers for prisoners which has been created in response to a request to a member of our executive committee who is a regular prison visitor. The collection has been developed in association with Prison Chaplains and will be distributed free of charge via chaplains.
- People with dementia and their carers – a major focus of activity over a number of years. It will remain so
- Older Christians from Black and Ethnic Minority communities – We have only begun to work with people of the Black Churches and others which represent other communities either in specialist congregations or in mainstream churches
The spiritual life and needs of older Christians, worship, older people’s champions, digital exclusion, intergenerational activities, volunteering, and life for disabled older people in care homes and the community are all matters of interest where we may do additional work
Chair, Christians on Ageing