In writing this book about how churches can care for their older members, Tina English manages to challenge, inspire and equip her readers whether they are individuals, members of church communities or indeed church leaders. It is a timely book. Older people in our communities have long been side-lined and too often, their needs are unseen and overlooked. The pandemic has exacerbated this situation. Recent research from Independent Age and the Mental Health Foundation has highlighted some of the issues facing this generation. As Mark Rowland, Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation, says, ‘Fear, loneliness, bereavement, lack of social contact, the inability to do the things that previously benefited their mental and physical health, loss of face-to-face contact and the death of people close to them, have all affected their lives and mental health’ (December, 2021).
Knowing how to reach out to this generation may seem overwhelming to many of us, but Tina English sets out clearly both the theology for ministry of this kind and practical ideas for putting it into practice. Older people are not a heterogenous group. They may range from the active retired to the physically and/or mentally frail who may be in a care home. Their needs are various and change over time. These different situations are all described and clear and practical ideas are given for readers to adopt. Underpinning each of them is the premise that Jesus came to bring life in all its fullness to all of us, whatever our age and stage of life. Yes, it is important to relieve loneliness and reach out in practical ways, but it is also important to help older people know and experience life in all its fullness. The challenges of giving spiritual encouragement and sharing faith are dealt with honestly and a range of available resources is provided.
Tina English is well qualified to write this book. She founded Embracing Age, a charity dedicated to improving the lives of older people and has a genuine love of older people. Her style is engaging and clear. She covers a wide range of different situations and addresses with honesty and frankness. She is particularly good at raising the issues that carers face when involved in 24-hour care of partners or family members. In the preface, she lists her aims in writing the book. She has more than achieved them. It is indeed a book that is easy to read, full of inspiring ideas and full of real examples from experienced practitioners.
You can access this resource via the link below:
By Fiona Costa