Lynchburg organization encourages faith community to fill gaps in senior care

Published: Feb. 20, 2017 at 5:56 PM EST
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Serving the community goes well beyond the sanctuary at Peakland United Methodist Church.

"We are called to love our neighbor as ourselves," said Peakland's pastor, John Vest.

The staff provides a variety of services to people who worship at the church, and those who don't.

More than 20 of their programs are geared toward seniors, including an initiative called "Hand-in-Hand."

"It's for adult children who are becoming parents to their parents," Vest explained.

The ministry provides counseling and support for families dealing with dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

"About half the group is from the community and not formally associated with Peakland church," Vest said.

Peakland's efforts are something the Beard Center on Aging at Lynchburg College is trying to replicate at other houses of worship.

"We are hoping to work with our faith communities to address some of the gaps in senior services that we have," said Denise Scruggs, director of the Beard Center on Aging.

Scruggs says many seniors can't afford to pay for the support they need as they get older.

"There are a lot of ways churches can help," said Scruggs.

Ways like delivering meals, or simply checking on seniors who don't have family close by to watch out for them.

"It really is just being in the community together, caring for one another, and doing right by one another," said Vest.

The Beard Center will put a focus on this topic at an event next month called the "Faithful Aging" conference. It's being held March 14 at Lynchburg College. The event will feature religious leaders and professionals from the medical community.

Participants need to register in advance.

Lynchburg College will host Faithful Aging, a statewide conference designed to help churches serve Virginia’s aging population, on March 14. The registration deadline is March 7. Church leaders and members from any congregation can attend and learn how to make churches more dementia-friendly, help older adults facing loss and grief, and support caregivers in their congregations. “Even though the number of seniors is growing, many programs that help older adults have had to reduce services due to financial support,” said Denise Scruggs, director of the Beard Center on Aging at Lynchburg College. “We are reaching out the churches and encouraging them to help fill in the gaps and to help take care of frail, older members in their churches.” Faithful Aging is one of the first statewide, faith-based, nondenominational, conferences on aging. Speakers will include healthcare providers, ministers, an elder law attorney, and other experts on issues faced by the aging population. Keynote speakers will include Verna Sellers, the medical director of geriatric services and programs for Centra PACE; Martha Stokes, director of community relations for Virginia United Methodist Homes, Inc.; and the Rev. Will Randolph, director of the office on aging and older adult ministries for the United Methodist Church. Registration is $40 for an individual or $25 per person for groups of three or more from one organization. More information, including a registration form, can be found online at Questions can be directed to the Beard Center on Aging at 434.544.8456.