Some of our senior adults are experiencing unique needs and challenges as a result of the coronavirus’ behavior and recommendations. These can lead to overwhelming anxiety. Leaders are finding creative ways to minister to the needs of their senior flock and to reach out to the senior community at large.
Our seniors offer us so much. In their time of need, we can support them in ways that can carry over into continued ministry even after the coronavirus (COVID-19) has gone. Start now, and plan to get stronger as you’re able to meet together again. Here are a few ideas that may help you meet the needs of the senior adults in your church, community, and family.
Develop a senior helpdesk.
Senior adults are faced with new questions like, “How do I bank online? How do I get groceries and keep my distance? How can I get my meds?” Daily issues have pushed many of them outside their comfort zones. They need trusted assistance in navigating the simple issues. Recruit a few patient volunteers ready to talk them through tips and tricks of accomplishing their daily needs on the computer or by phone call.
Manage a senior hotline.
Many senior adults are more comfortable talking on the phone than they are texting or emailing. Provide contact information, including phone numbers, where the senior can get in touch with a real person that can assist them. Answer the phone when they call. A friendly voice of a real person on the other end of the phone line can be a calming influence. Treat every contact, no matter how trivial it may seem, as an important issue. Remember the issue may feel very important to them as they are managing things.
Create a “minuteman team.”
Gather a list of volunteers that will be on call for needs such as trips to the store, mail pick up and delivery, or simple errands. Find several willing people in the congregation and staff that can serve as these minutemen.
Organize regular wellness checks.
Use your small group leaders to organize and maintain contact with every senior adult. For tips on recruiting and mobilizing your members, be sure to read this article. Touch base at least a couple times a week to make sure that their needs are met and to encourage them. Here are some ideas:
- Daily check ins are being used by several churches.
- A group text is sent to the members of the Sunday School class requesting a response.
- A short devotional, short list of prayer requests or a daily scripture verse may be included. Staying connected is the key. Pay special attention to the shut ins as they may have had usual schedules altered by social distancing efforts. Their usual support systems may be temporarily impacted.
Staying connected is the key. Pay special attention to the shut ins as they may have had usual schedules altered by social distancing efforts. Their usual support systems may be temporarily impacted.
Open opportunities to talk about worries and anxieties.
Pastors can schedule over-the-phone meetings with those that need to talk out their anxieties. Know that deacons and other members of the congregation can also be on this response team. Being able to talk about concerns, feel heard, and receive encouragement can be very helpful to those that are struggling. Seniors are dealing with separation anxiety as children and grandchildren are social distancing. The Christian Index recently published an article related to isolation during this time. Help them deal with the negative feelings and anxious thoughts.
Consider community needs.
How can the church use the open door of this crisis to touch those in nursing homes, hospitals, and retirement communities? At this time, these buildings are closed to most visitors. However, a church can provide goodie bags for the nurses and medical staff at the hospital or local nursing home. Call the reception desk and arrange to leave the bags outside the front door if you cannot enter the lobby.
This is also a great idea to mobilize a different segment of your church. For those who aren’t comfortable calling, they can be mobilized to write notes of encouragement, scout for snacks and devotional books, and put together bags of treats. In retirement communities, a call to the club house or activity director (look at the community website or Facebook page) may open the door to dropping off similar care packages containing a roll of toilet paper, devotional booklet, dried fruit and nuts, and handwritten notes of encouragement.
Tom Crites serves as research consultant in Research & Developement for the Georgia Baptist Mission Board.