Elderly adults who require home healthcare suffer from depression rates at 13.5 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Senior hospital patients aren’t far behind with 11.5 percent experiencing depression.
It’s easy for the elderly to feel forgotten and overlooked in today’s fast-paced society. Eric Verstraete, President of Life Matters Worldwide, says he was struck recently by a conversation he had with an elderly gentleman.
“I was stood up for a breakfast meeting and I saw this gentleman sitting across the way, an older guy, and I decided to go and join him. He was a Vietnam veteran [and] also a World War II veteran. As I talked with him, we spent almost two hours.
“He said a very profound thing to me at the end. He said, ‘Eric, thanks for seeing me today.’
“That really touched my heart. I realized that because we get so busy in our lives, we don’t truly see the people around us the way Jesus really wants us to.”
Verstraete says the Church has a critical role to play in reaching elderly folks who feel left behind in our communities. However, sometimes it’s easy for churches to focus more on growth among the younger generations and undervalue the older population.
“The elderly in many churches or even in families at times are being a bit marginalized in our society today. They are not seen as an asset anymore. They are seen somewhat as a liability. This population just has so much to give. I think loneliness is a really big issue with this population and that stems into all kinds of other problems that can result from that.”
The holidays can especially be lonely for the elderly. They may have lost family, live very far away from loved ones, or even be limited in other ways from engaging with community for Christmas.
“I think as we move forward through this holiday season, the importance of family certainly is always a highlight for most folks. So [we want] to encourage those family members who may not be at the forefront all the time. How do we care for them? If we do that in our families, I think that’s going to transfer into how we love our Church family even better.”