"Spirituality in Aging" series aims to support ministry with older adults during COVID-19 and beyond

As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on and the number of positive cases around the country continues to grow, one of the populations most affected is older adults. Many are suffering from the effects of  isolation, and many have trouble participating in things virtually due to technological limitations or cognitive decline.

In an effort to counter pandemic-related effects on this group, the diocesan Lifespan Ministry with Older Adults network will present "Spirituality in Aging," an online discussion series. This interactive three-part program will be offered free of charge via Zoom on Saturday mornings, Feb. 6, 13 and 20, from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. 

Organizers and discussion facilitators are the Rev. Deacon Phil Flaherty and the Rev. Deacon Marilee Comerford, who serve as the missioners for the diocesan Lifespan Ministry with Older Adults. Flaherty--who currently hosts three Zoom events each week--said in an interview that in his experience so far, people are, more than ever, seeking connection and conversation with others.

“People are starving to talk, and they have a lot to share,” Flaherty said. “We ought to put a structure on it so we can have people walk away with an awareness of what their own potentials are, and start looking for where their personal and their parish ministries are headed, in terms of addressing the needs and the opportunities for older folks.”

The hope for the discussion series is that it can provide a forum for people to engage in discussion with each other about ministry with older adults and provide a resource, and that the series will be a jumping off point for more conversation and collaboration down the road. 

“I think it’s important to note that we don’t feel this presentation is a 'one-and-done.' That is, we want to walk away with people having an invitation to continue the conversation,” Flaherty said. “We don’t have to have formal presentations every month, but if we have a group of people who develop friendships, who are involved with this ministry, with that concern over older adults, things could happen.”

The series will offer older adults, as well as those who work with older adults, an opportunity to share support and conversation as the pandemic continues into a second year. In addition to conversations about compassion and resilience, grief and loss, and meaning and connection, the series will offer spiritual and meditative practices, civic discourse resources and, more broadly, a chance to dream about the future. 

“We want to offer some real hope about what the church can provide, being a place of hope and peace for right now, when it feels like everything is broken,” Comerford said in the interview. “As we’re faced with COVID and the time beyond, we don’t necessarily want to brainstorm about what we’re going to do during COVID, but when this is over and we get a chance to reinvent, what it looks like on the other side.”

Comerford, who, along with Flaherty, has worked as nurse, said that at its core, this series and this ministry with older adults is about healing.

“One of the quotes I love about healing is that healing is holding a vision for someone else's wholeness that they might not be able to hold for themselves,” Comerford said. “At this time, it’s just being able to envision that things will be better for them in spite of this, and inviting them into that hope, that there are ways to heal."

--Bridget K. Wood

Registration for the "Spirituality in Aging" discussion series is open through Feb. 4 here.  Questions may be directed to the Rev. Deacon Phil Flaherty at philflaherty@outlook.com.