It seems but yesterday when Faith in Older People published the results of the research it had undertaken with faith communities in Scotland (2013) regarding their support for older people within their congregations and inclusive of others in the community. A wide range of religious, social and practical services were offered which embraced pastoral care at home and in care homes.
This work has led to FiOP developing its ‘dementia friendly faith communities work’ as there was a clear indication that this was a particular concern to many congregations. Our aim is to affirm and support activities and to continue to develop an understanding of the need of those with dementia and their carers.
There is perhaps some way to go in ensuring that the contributions and needs of an ageing congregation are recognised, appreciated and understood as older people provide the backbone to many congregations. I was therefore interested to read a book entitled ‘A vision for the Ageing Church’ which has been written by two American academics which points out the following:
Despite religious edicts and demographic realities that accentuate the need for faith-based initiatives to deal with a rapidly ageing population, communities of faith have not responded to their tremendous potential. In general, the professional communities (scientific and practice) have not had access to congregations and this lack of collaboration has continued because unifying frameworks in successful ageing and care giving have not incorporated spiritual into their evidence-based models of intervention.
There is a growing emphasis on the importance of spiritual well-being and this is an integral part of person centred care. It embraces compassion and kindness which are key contributors to well-being which complement and support clinical or social care practice. There is room for greater collaboration which draws on the strengths of faith communities and builds the strengths of those who need care and those who provide it.
‘A vision for the Ageing Church’ James M. Houston and Michael Parker; Intervarsity Press (2011)