The United Nations established the International Day of Older Persons (IDOP) in 1990 as a way to focus attention around the globe on the barriers to respect and dignity for older people caused by ageism. IDOP is recognised on October 1st each year as a celebration of the older people in all societies, and a reminder to continue developing a society for all ages. It is an opportunity to challenge negative stereotypes and misconceptions about older persons and aging. It is widely recognised that older persons are an asset to the society; their wisdom, value-system and experience helps in guiding and mentoring the present generation.
In 2021 the IDOP theme stresses digital equality for older people. Digital access has become a more important issue with the challenges of the COVID pandemic.
“Imagine … an Australian community where older people are valued and included in community life, enabled to maintain health & independence, are able to contribute their talents and wisdom, pursue their interests, nurture relationships, maintain their culture and spirituality and be in control of their future. Imagine if those who need support can receive it in a way that supports the above, and is provided with dignity and respect”.
(UnitingCare Australia submission to Productivity Commission – Caring for Older Australians, 2009)
What is important is not merely adding ‘years to life’ but also adding ‘life to years’.
Meaningful ageing experiences for Australians are facilitated by care and support that put people in the centre and build on their interests, strengths and capabilities. A good support system empowers older people, families and carers, service staff, volunteers and the broader community to live and work together in communities where they experience relationships, joy and hope. People of all ages have a valued place in their communities. Older people enjoy respect and dignity, can exercise their rights, and continue to live and grow to their full potential across all of the dimensions of their humanity. Where people are vulnerable, care and support systems reach out to them in partnership with their communities and are tailored deliberately to meet their needs, preferences and aspirations. (Ageing to our full potential – preparing for an older Australia, UnitingCare report)
Uniting Churches are being encouraged to recognise the human rights and dignity of older people on the first Sunday after the IDOP. This year the date is October 3.
“The Uniting Church’s life is enriched by its many older members who remember faithfully and watch hopefully for where God is leading, and nurture and encourage others across the generations. We give thanks for their worship, witness and service” (Rev Sharon Hollis, President, Uniting Church in Australia)
The proportion of Australian church attenders aged 60+ (48%) is much higher than the proportion of people aged 60+ in the general population (26%). In the Uniting Church, according to the NCLS survey, the Uniting Church had 67% aged 60+ (higher than other denominations [Lutheran (58%), Catholic (55%), Anglican (51%), Pentecostal churches 21%].
While the Australian population continues to age, with the elderly making up an increasing proportion of society, those denominations with established ministries for older residents may find their activities and experience of value to offer their local communities.
We believe in God who is creating all that is,
who knows our hearts and loves us as we are,
who speaks to us in our deepest beings,
who calls people of all ages
to abundant life and wholeness.
Christ Jesus shows us the Way,
guiding us and healing our bodies and minds,
sharing our joys and sufferings,
crossing all human barriers and distinctions,
transforming the power of death into new life.
The Holy Spirit is the gift of God’s life with us now,
giving us the courage to take new paths,
and the strength to continue the journey
in different stages and ages of our lives.
In solitude, vulnerability, compassion and love,
the Spirit reveals her presence with. Amen.
(Source: Worship resources, Older Persons Sunday: dignity and hope for all ages)