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Enrichment Journal - Enriching and Equipping Spirit-filled Ministers

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Meeting the Unique Needs of Single Senior Adults

At the turn of the century, life expectancy was 37 years, and there were only 3 million people who were 65 years of age and older. Today, life expectancy is 75 years, and there are over 35 million who are 65 years of age and older. One person out of five in America is over the age of 65. Older adults are part of the fastest-growing segment of our society. The senior population is growing three times faster than the national population. Experts refer to this senior boom as the "Age Wave."

What is the church doing to minister to single senior adults? Many single senior adults feel they are invisible to their marriage-and-family-oriented pastor and church. The church can make an eternal difference in the lives of single senior adults. To do this, we need to respond, as did the Early Church, with a special sensitivity from the Holy Spirit to meet their unique needs.

Single senior adults face many of the same challenges as do other seniors. They may have chronic illness and live on fixed incomes, but they desire meaningful activities after retirement, want to age gracefully, and want to have continued involvement in social and civic responsibilities. Many, though, feel left out, ignored, rejected, and often misunderstood. And they may have feelings of inferiority, isolationism, and loneliness. The church must provide fellowship and activities for seniors.

Three out of four wives in America will be widowed at the median age of 56, for an average length of 18 years. For many widows, their spouse’s death means the loss of their very best friend. This time of loneliness provides an opportunity for the church to minister to their needs. Widows can minister to other widows. The church can also establish a team of capable individuals to help with practical, financial, physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. Those qualified can provide counseling and instruction for specific needs. Support groups can provide long-term ministry and fellowship.

Senior adults who have experienced the hurt of divorce need the church to minister to them as well. They may feel lonely, guilty, frustrated, rejected, and fearful. The church needs to bring the message of God’s forgiveness, healing, and restoration. Jesus had compassion on those who were hurting; we need to do the same, while providing support for their lives. We have been called to be a hospital where the hurting and the wounded can find help.

The church needs to recognize that although single senior adults may face unique challenges, they are part of the church family. The church must provide alternative activities from what the world has to offer. We must also involve them in various opportunities for ministry and evangelism, allowing them to fulfill God’s call on their lives.

Senior single adults are a very important part of what God is doing in His church. They are a mighty army serving the Lord and His people. They are no longer content in just being served; they are looking to the church for creative ways to minister both in the church and community. Single seniors are a reservoir of resources, providing wisdom, experience, dedication, time, commitment, and capability. They are an invaluable part of His great church. We need to equip them with the necessary tools to fulfill His Great Commission.

Stephen B. Sparks, director of Senior Adult Ministries, Springfield, Missouri.

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