Getting Ready for the Coming Wave

In this week’s mail, I received a flyer from the Minnesota Department of Human Services, advertising a series of meetings to discuss Transform 2010.  Transform 2010 is a “statewide initiative that works to transform policies, infrastructures and services to prepare Minnesota for the coming age wave, which begins in just a few years when the first baby boomers turn 65.” Almost 20 state agencies are participating in this initiative. “Minnesota is about to experience a permanent shift in the age of its population,” said an assistant commissioner in the DHS. “We have always aged as individuals, but now, for the first time in history, we will age as a society and the effects will be profound.” The state agencies are hosting meetings  to discuss this topic all around the state this summer and fall.

That makes me wonder what the effects on our churches and fellowships will be as this phenomenon unfolds. Here are some questions to consider:

* What programming should we be providing now as this large segment of our population moves toward their retirement years? What programming will be needed later? Could Small Group Ministry provide one opportunity for people as they age? Is this the time to explore SGM in your congregation?

* What other peer groups could we be encouraging or forming? One of our congregations has a group of retired men called the Aging Bulls, who meet together monthly. Besides participating in this social network, they recently helped raise money for new playground equipment for their church. Does your congregation have groups for older men or women? Should we be forming interest groups now, instead of waiting until later?

* Soon we will have a cadre of members who may have more time to offer to the congregation and to the community. How can we best put their skills and talents to use? Can we organize new possibilities for travel to do social justice work, as just one example?

* What are the financial implications for our congregations when a large number of members move from their working years into a future of living on fixed income? Should we be planning ahead for this?

* What will be required of our ministers and our pastoral care committees? Do we, or should we, offer support systems for caregivers? Will our buildings be accessible when more and more of our members have limited mobility?

Mary Pipher, UU author, in her book Another Country: Navigating the Emotional Terrain of our Elders,  wrote about two stages of later life. She referred to the first stage as a time when people have good health and energy for a full life and are able to travel. Later, because of increasing age or perhaps as a result of declining health, people may no longer be able to care for themselves without assistance. As I’ve watched my own parents and my husband’s parents make the transition between the two stages, I can’t help but wonder what the future holds for us and for our children. Multiply that by millions of other people, and you’ll begin to understand why I think our congregations and their leaders need to start thinking and planning now.

For more information about Transform 2010, go to www.dhs.mn.us/2010 

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