Loving Senior Adults from a Distance

By Alan Moore

Perhaps you are familiar with this quote from an unknown author: “If you think missing me is hard, you should try missing you.” This sounds like something the A.A. Milne character Eeyore would say, doesn’t it? One of our sweet senior adults at Prestonwood Baptist Church stated after just a few weeks of isolation due to COVID-19, “I’m getting tired of me.” Yet another possible “Eeyore-ism.”

Prior to March 2020, a typical homebound person would receive a phone call or a handwritten note, or possibly a personal visit from a deacon or Sunday school group. The person wasn’t truly connected due to being homebound, but hopefully he or she was ministered to in one way or another.

Fast-forward a few months and now we have all had a taste of what it’s like to be homebound …  and perhaps we, too, are “getting tired of me” right now! Yet, through social media (which prior to the pandemic, some senior adults didn’t even know existed), folks are connecting more than ever before from the comfort of their homes. God, in His infinite wisdom and design, has taken the Church and ministry as we’ve known it to new and greater heights. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that connecting via Zoom or Facebook equates to our in-person gatherings. But, those who had been unable to gather in person pre-pandemic are once again connected to their church family. Through technology, the distance of ministering and extending love to our senior adults has been greatly reduced. Imagine how difficult this would have been 20 or 30 years ago without the technology we have available today.

In considering the nuts and bolts of “Loving Senior Adults from A Distance,” listed are a few creative ways to implement your strategy.

  1. Personal Touch – Warning … this takes time!
    • Personal Visits – Although limited during this season of isolation, we can still reach out. Whether as a pastor, Sunday school teacher or friend, a personal visit is most effective. Mask up, keep a distance, and call ahead to make sure it is safe for you to visit. You may be required to stand outside the door or window or sit together at a distance on the patio, but it can be done. It’s advisable to keep visits brief.
    • Seniors love to talk about their past! Whether over the phone, Facetime or Zoom, if you ask about their family, work, achievements, be ready to listen. Ask questions and genuinely engage in the conversation. There is much to be learned from this generation, much wisdom indeed, so be sure to listen intently and learn from them.
  1. Social Media – With senior adults? Yes, they can do it!
    • All hands on deck! Whether it’s a grandchild, neighbor or even you helping them learn, given enough time and clear instructions, many of your seniors can Zoom. If they don’t have a device, try to provide one. Maybe members of your church have devices that can be borrowed.
    • If not Zoom, then you could use phone calls via Google Meet. It may bring back fond memories of the old party lines we once had. Though they won’t see each other, they can hear and communicate prayer requests, encourage one another, and participate in a Bible study.
    • Facebook – the fastest-growing group of users is senior adults! Start a senior adult group within your church where you promote events, share senior adult-related topics on health and fitness or the like.
    • CREATIVE IDEAS: Provide a Scripture memory challenge (such as a Bible Drill from years past). It is vitally important for seniors to keep their minds active. What better way than to memorize God’s Word! Highlight a weekly promise from Scripture with a corresponding verse to memorize.
  1. Purpose Driven
    • As long as we’re breathing, we should praise the Lord and allow Him to use us for His purposes. Be careful not to think that just because senior adults are older, they cannot serve. Actually, it’s just the opposite. Because they are older and not working full time, they have even more time to serve! Your seniors will feel loved and appreciated as they feel needed in kingdom work!
    • Assign seniors appropriate tasks. More than likely, it will be difficult for most seniors to participate in disaster relief work, however, they can do many other things. Tap into their strengths and get them on mission.
    • Ministry Action: Seniors to Seniors – Provide your senior adults the opportunity to adopt a high school senior in your church to pray over and encourage with letters and cards throughout the school year. They could possibly bless the high school senior a couple times during the year with a humble gift card, but praying for them is most important. This has huge potential and will be a blessing to both seniors.
    • Organize Shepherd Group Leaders within your Sunday school or small-group ministry. This will serve as a different type of Seniors to Seniors where the more active senior adults minister to those who may not be as active. Phone calls, cards, handwritten notes, etc., all help our seniors feel loved, even from a distance.
  1. Virtual Gatherings
    • Third Thursdays have become a welcome tradition at Prestonwood, where we gather for a catered meal followed by a special program. These have continued during the pandemic, but only via Zoom. Although there’s no meal, we have continued providing guest speakers and musicians to share with our seniors virtually.
    • Try to offer educational programs such as “How to Safeguard against Fraud and Scams,” “Planning for Financial Security,” and other topics relevant to seniors.
    • Another idea is to offer virtual “Hot Topic” Bible studies for a three-to-four week period in hopes that those who join and are not plugged in to a small group will be open to doing so afterward. Topics such as “Grandparenting,” “How to Love My Neighbor,” “Staying Fit for Life,” “How to Share Christ with my Neighbor,” and more.

Although in the past, we knew the Church wasn’t the building, much of our ministry had been relegated to inside the walls. But due to the pandemic, we’ve been greatly reminded that the Church is the body of Christ and can minister just as effectively outside the church walls. The world we’re living in desperately needs to witness God’s people sharing His love faithfully to all people, near and far. Whether in person or virtual, we are to be salt and light in the world where God has us. May we be faithful and creative in serving our faithful and creative heavenly Father!