In October, I was one of several Unitarian Universalists who took part in a Future of Adult Faith Formation Symposium organized by Lifelong Faith Associates. The topic exploration was organized around the four “seasons” of adult faith formation: Young Adult, Midlife Adult, Mature Adult, and Older Adult. While I left with many things to mull, the most important insights I gained were about faith development for older adults. At the symposium, we recognized the presence of two distinct generations who are now “older adults”: The Boomer generation and their parents, the Builder Generation. The generational experiences and preferences of the two groups are very different, as are the spiritual, emotional, and physical challenges each group faces.
Looking back, I am surprised that that was such a revelation to me. I’m living it, right now. I am a Boomer and qualify as an older adult by all definitions used by experts. I also have varying responsibilities for care of three parents in their late 80s. I feel the spiritual challenges of my own stage of life, as I wrestle with professional and personal legacy and what comes next for me, while also coming to terms with physical limitations I did not have a couple of decades ago. At the same time, I am acutely aware of the spiritual challenges that face my parents’ generation: the need for connection and community, the time required to take care of health and wellbeing, the dance of independence and safety/support, the deaths and losses that come with great regularity. And I live the truth that not just challenges and losses, but also strengths and gifts come with aging: richness in wisdom, experience, and perspective; stories of ethical, moral, and faith commitments honored over the course of a lifetime, and ability to take the long view of situations.
Both the challenges and gifts of older adults are very present in all of our congregations. Some may be struggling to organize faith development opportunities for this group, while others have a thriving ministry to older adults. The UUA has organized a set of web pages with resources for older adult ministry. These pages will not only help congregations and groups find the resources they need for ministry to and with older adults, but also offer resources and guidance for older adults themselves and for those who love them. Here you will find links to curricula, books, videos, programs, and websites with useful information. These are the topics:
- Body, Mind, and Spirit
- Facing Death, Grief, and Loss
- Programs for Groups
- Health Care Decisions
Take a look! These pages are working, living documents. We’ll keep it fresh with new photos of older UU adults (that YOU will send from your congregation or group!) and with new resources as they become known to us. Please feel free to send along suggestions- and photos!
Wishing you and yours a wonderful 2016- may your spiritual journey be a rich one!
Gail Forsyth-Vail is Adult Programs Director in the Faith Development Office at the UUA in Boston. She has been a religious educator for almost 30 years, through all seasons of adulthood: as a young adult parent, as a schedule-crazy mid-lifer, as a mature adult parenting teens and young adults and building a career, and now as an older adult caring for parents.