Latest stories from Pilgrim’s Friend Society
Latest stories from Pilgrim’s Friend Society
Grandmas and Grandpas – take cover. You are a danger to the global economy.
Doris and Dave, Elsie and Eddie, Marje and Malcolm, the economists and accountants who run the world (sadly) are sniping at you … again.
You may have worked hard all your life, paid your national insurance and pension contributions, raised a family, and even defended your country in war. You contributed to the economy all the days of your adult life, sometimes sticking to a job you didn’t like because that’s what your generation did, to bring home the bacon. ‘Job satisfaction’ had nothing to do with it: it was all about seeing that your family was OK and that your children had a good future. And Christians tithed and gave money to their churches, so they could benefit the wider community.
Even right now, you may be one of the thousands of older people keeping charities going; supporting local community activities, contributing sacrificially to the wellbeing of your adult children, often caring for the grandchildren, but the fact is that now you are being seen as a danger to the economy, according to an article in the ‘City A.M’ (what’s that, you might well ask?). It has been written by a young faced Tim Wallace, who looks hardly old enough for the scrubby beard he sports. But Tim is a bright boy: he covers banking, regulation and the Eurozone.
The article says that over the next ten years, global economic growth will be dragged down sharply by ageing populations. We know it’s true because it’s what the analysts at US credit ratings agency Moody’s are saying. Britain will be one of the countries hit hardest, as our population is unusually old. In fact, the so-called super-aged countries, with more than 20 per cent of the population over 65 years old, will be hit hardest.
Older populations mean that there will be fewer people in work. We’ll all be there, indulgently spending our savings in retirement instead of earning and spending at the same time.
Well I never… F W Taylor’s scientific management theory, where people are units of production, is alive and well. Step off the production line and you put the whole world in danger.
It’s not the way God sees it.
Psalm 2:4 says, ‘He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision.’ He’s not speaking directly to the analysts at Moody’s, of course, but to people who are ignorant of His plans. Because old age is part of His grand design. It didn’t come about by accident. God’s view of old age is that it is a precious time. It’s viewed by God as a blessing, for individuals and those around them.
‘Grey hair is a crown of splendour; it is attained by a righteous life.” (Proverbs 16:31NIV). And, ‘the righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, “The LORD is upright; He is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.’ Psalm 92:12-15.
It’s to be a time of fruitfulness and harvest (Galatians 5:22), displaying God’s goodness (Psalm 4:18). It is a time for sharing for sharing experience (Psalm 78:4).
God places His imprimatur on older people. ‘’You shall rise up before the grey headed and honour the aged, and you shall revere your God;’ He says, adding His royal seal: ‘I am the LORD.’ (Leviticus 19:32).
Moody’s analysts project the financial future, seeking to promote monetary growth. God puts it the other way around. ‘But seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.’ Matthew 6:33.
There were some brave people in the gym this morning. One man was lying almost vertically, head back, on a kind of black leather torture machine doing ‘roll-ups’, using his stomach muscles to come up and touch his toes. Another was dangling from an overhead bar, pulling himself up to almost hip level just using his arms. Most of the women seemed to be doing sensible things, I thought, till I heard what seemed to be an almighty fight at one end of the gym, with noise and sounds of crashing and grunts and raucous shouting. It sounded like a gang fight, but turned out to be the spinning class, a bunch of (mainly) women on fixed bikes cycling as though their lives depended on it, urged on by a fearsome young lady on a bike facing them at the front, screaming instructions over martial music.
Is this really the right place for me, I wondered, turning my eyes to the TV screen facing the row of treadmills. And wonders – there were four older folk, in their seventies and eighties, enjoying a game of Badminton, or something that looked like it except the net was lower. It definitely wasn’t tennis. They weren’t being screamed at and were obviously enjoying themselves.
Turns out it’s something called Pickleball, a mixture of Badminton, tennis and table tennis. It has its origins in America and is growing in popularity here in the UK – and you can win medals whether you are 18 or 80!
What a great activity! Recent studies are showing the benefits of exercise in preventing all kinds of diseases, including dementia.
Go older folks – Go! You can see more about it here –
This morning I was filing a news clipping about Esther Rantzen’s ‘Silver Line’, a call centre for older people who want someone to talk to. In the first six months over 100,000 over 65s called just to be able to chat with someone. The reasons many older folk are living such solitary lives are quite complex, and it would be unrealistic to suggest that there is a simple solution. But then I was reminded of something that has proved to be a really simple solution; a place where people are being brought together quite naturally. I was filing a news piece about Pilgrim Gardens, our new retirement housing in Leicester.
The news story was about how Pilgrim Gardens had won three national awards, and we were asked if the government Housing & Communities Agency (HCA) could make a site visit, with 20 attendees, as a learning exercise for their Vulnerable and Older Persons Housing Agenda (VOPAG). But the real prize for us was seeing how well Pilgrim Gardens is working for people who are living there.
Quite simply, it eliminates loneliness. If you haven’t seen it already, do watch the video at vimeo.com/100737356
For some time there’s been concern about discrimination against Christians in the workplace and in the public forum. Now we have a chance to make our views known to the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which is inviting people to give their views and experience on its website, www.equalityhumanrights.com/
It isn’t specifically about issues that affect older people, but if you have experiences or views in this arena, why not include them, too?
No-one wants to go into hospital, especially older people who can feel disoriented and fearful. They are as keen as the NHS to avoid crisis situations that take them to A & E departments and then on to hospital wards where, after treatment, they may find themselves ‘trapped’ because they are not able to care for themselves at home.
The answer is to help prevent them reaching crisis point in the first place. Recently NHS England announced that it is is to share £2 million amongst eight charities to help them run projects to help keep the elderly out of hospitals this winter. It’s the first time national funds have been used in this way. Also, £3.8bn, largely sourced from the NHS budget, is being put into the social care system.
Now, in another move, the elderly are being visited in their home by district nurses armed with questionnaires. They ask what the person should like to happen if their health suddenly fails – where they would prefer to die, and startlingly, if they agree with a ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ order.
Roy Lilley, a health policy analyst, whose mother was visited by a nurse with the form, said that it was outrageous that elderly, frail, but otherwise healthy people should be asked by complete strangers to sign a form agreeing that they shouldn’t be resuscitated.
He said that they would be ‘frightened to death’ thinking that the nurses know something they don’t and will feel obliged to sign the form so as not to be thought a nuisance.
Mr Lilley’s mother is fortunate in having a son who cares about her. But many older people have no family, or indeed anyone at all, to care for them. In a recent report Age UK has increased the figure of 800,000 that were facing ‘catastrophe’ to 900,000.
It seems to be a vicious circle. Thousands of isolated older people are at risk of going into A & E with infections or falls that could have been prevented had they been being cared for. Once treated they may not be able to go home because of the lack of care.
And the NHS, to its credit, is simply doing its best.
As I said in an earlier post, wouldn’t it be great if there was a readily available government fund for local churches to help support the vulnerable old in their neighbourhoods?
Links to relevant items – http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2729332/Do-want-let-die-Question-nurses-home-visits-told-ask-elderly-patients-just-met.html and http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-28116570
There is hope for vulnerable people as Lord Justice Munby issues consultation paper as key step to ending the secrecy of family courts. Decisions made in secret have affected the lives of tens of thousands of vulnerable elderly people, as we reported in an earlier news update.(Read here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/10818296/Courts-braced-for-surge-in-cases-of-elderly-locked-up-against-their-will.html)
Journalist Christopher Booker has been following the drive by Lord Justice Munby, the head of our family courts, to bring the Court of Protection into the ‘glare of publicity.’ Writing in the national press, Christopher Booker describes some heart-breaking cases, including that of a husband forbidden to see his wife ever again after reporting the poor care she was getting at the home she’d been forcibly taken to; he was even forbidden to send her flowers or Christmas and birthday cards. He is heartbroken and has had no contact with her for years. Read Booker’s report here http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2580636/Read-stories-secret-courts-imprison-elderly-care-homes-against-weep.html.
You may also remember the case of the 94 year old former midwife, who came from the West Indies to work for the NHS in the Seventies. Miss G ‘sacked’ carers arranged by Social Services because she was not satisfied with their care, and was being looked after by a couple from her church, who came from the same West Indian island. The council, alarmed to be told that Miss G was planning to leave her property to her new carers, moved to have her ruled as lacking ‘mental capacity’ by the Court of Protection, despite a report from an eminent independent psychologist who had examined her. All her life savings£60,000 were spent on legal fees in defending her wishes. She was forbidden to talk to journalists. Now a final court ruling is that she must again be looked after by carers sent by the council, but she must still be allowed to remain in her own home – which means that the Council cannot sell her house to pay for her care. She is also banned from seeing the couple from her church. Read the story here at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/elderhealth/11038105/How-the-Court-of-Protection-left-a-94-year-old-without-savings-or-dignity.html
Now Lord Justice Mundy has published a consultation paper on opening up the family courts and is inviting preliminary views from the public. Sir James has said that the public has a legitimate interest in being able to read what is being done by the Court’s judges in its name. The consultation paper can be read here: http://www.judiciary.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/transparency-the-next-steps-consultation-paper.pdf. There is an email address for sending views. Do respond to Sir James’ invitation by going to the website and giving your views. Decisions that affect vulnerable people of all ages, including the elderly, should not be taken in secret. We need to know the process so that we can better protect our relatives and dear ones, and even ourselves. Recent cases that have been reported in the press have been extremely disturbing. In the meantime, you may consider arranging a Power of Attorney. It may never be needed, but it is an insurance against being railroaded against one’s will. You can read about Power of Attorney here: https://www.gov.uk/power-of-attorney/overview.
At the gym this morning, there was a thin gentleman with a ‘wonky’ leg on the treadmill. He looked to be in his sixties, and a bit frail. But he stayed on the treadmill for nearly half an hour, walking uphill, too! Then he went over to one of the rowing machines and rowed for twenty minutes with the good leg in the strap and the poorly leg on the floor to one side. The gym was fairly busy, mainly with ‘ripped’, younger men who seemed to find everything easy, but I was impressed with the persistence of this chap with the wonky leg. He wasn’t going to give up!
It can be very easy for older people to give up, and become passive. Passivity leads to apathy, and that can be a big spiritual problem. A pastor I met at New Wine told me how concerned he was about some of the older members of his church, who’d become apathetic. He really cares about them and wants to stir up their spiritual lives again. I’m praying that God will give him good results.
It’s a bit of a myth that because they’ve experienced God’s goodness and interventions all their lives, older people are strong in their faith. This isn’t always the case, at all. When you’ve experienced so much loss – loss of your peer group, loss of family and people you’ve trusted, loss of people who affirmed your worth, you can lose trust in your own perceptions, and judgements. Even stalwarts of the faith can have their doubts. Paul describes this so well in Romans 7.
One of our home supporters, who was a pastor and a missionary for years and years, says that Satan reserves his fiercest attacks for God’s older saints. And the other week, my pastor threw light on this, when he spoke on Matthew 13. In Matthew 13 Jesus talks about the birds snatching away the seeds of faith that have been sown – the birds are a metaphor, of course. Later on in the same chapter Jesus talks about the seed being grown into a tree and then the birds of the air come and make their nesst in the (grown) trees’ branches.
My pastor pointed out that as the birds tried to snatch the seed away, once they are nesting in the mature tree they will be tweeting thoughts and temptations that are not good, and that we, who relate to older Christians, need to act as scarecrows chasing them away. We do that by encouraging one another, and building one another up, don’t we, replacing the negative with the truth. That’s a powerful picture! In our housing and care homes, giving spiritual encouragement and support is a key priority. Seeing the effect on frail, old saints is amazing. Do pray for our care home managers as they faithfully do this. If you haven’t already seen it, have a look at the little film we made recently. It’s on YouTube, at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zufZ0AryBNg. And be glad that part of our role is to be scare-crows, chasing away the birds that nibble away at our senior’s faith!
We can’t imagine the horrors endured by the Yazidi people who fled from the slaughter of the terrorists in Iraq. Some have told their stories to the TV crews; terrible stories of men beheaded and women and children taken as slaves.
Thank God for the Kurdistan soldiers who used anything to hand – diggers, donkeys, tractors and trucks- to rescue them from the Sinjar mountain. Thank God, too, for the international aid that brought them food and water.
Among the stories were a few of frail older mothers who were carried by their sons . Dow Jones Newswire included an account of a 40 year old market stall holder, who carried his 90 year old mother to safety. Another man told how his sons had tried to carry his old mother, but the trauma was too much for her and she suffered a heart attack and died. Even in their extreme suffering, the Yazidis did their best to look after each other – including frail parents.
So what’s happening here?
In contrast, in the safe, comfortable, welfare-state UK almost 900,000 frail old folk who need help are being left to fend for themselves. They’re struggling even with basic tasks like washing and dressing. Analysis by Age UK shows the number of elderly people with unmet care needs has risen by nine percent since the previous estimate two years ago. (Elderly left to fend for themselves, The Daily Telegraph, Thursday, August 14, 2014.)
Is it too simple a question to ask – where are their families?
A hospital chaplain told me that he often came across elderly patients who were rarely visited by their families. Why is that? he would ask. Oh, they have such busy lives, they don’t have time, would be the answer, always.
One time an 85 year old neighbour asked if the chap who mowed my garden would do the same for hers, if she paid him. I asked why her robust son, who lived less than four miles away, didn’t come and do it for her. Her answer was the same as the hospital patients – no time. What they meant, really, was low priority. Their needs came well down their children’s priorities, if they were on them at all.
Thank God, it’s not always the case. There’s the man who called on his father, three times a day, every day, to make sure he was alright until he was taken into a care home, against his will. The son said he was ‘gutted’. There’s the daughter who travels across London to prepare a meal for her elderly parents every evening: the father is the mother’s carer, and he is developing dementia and the strain is incredible. And there are tens of thousands more, sometimes called the sandwich generation, who are caring for their own families and their elderly parents. Research a couple of years ago showed that many felt permanently exhausted, barely able to work and raise their own families.
Probably some of the 900,000 identified by Age UK had never had children, or even younger siblings.
But perhaps the answer is the way women in our society are expected to go out to work these days, even encouraged by subsidised child fees. Juggling work, children, husband and home takes emotional and physical energy, so could it be that having less time and energy to share with older parents means a loosening of the traditional links?
The Yazidis’ trek, where they carried their grandmothers to the mountain, was life threatening. It was short and sharp, and terrifying. For the 900,000 older people who can’t properly care for themselves here, it goes on, day after day. It may not be as instantly life threatening as the Yazidis, but it wears them away, one day at a time.
Last night I thought about getting out the old goose down duvet when, after weeks of warm days and nights the temperature plummeted. The duvet is a treasure found in a sale in Germany years before they were commonplace in the UK, and just the thought of having it to hand is comforting. It comes into its own in the Winter months. Winter is not a kind time for older people. Some 800,000 old folk are already at risk, according to Age UK, facing catastrophe because they need care but can’t obtain it. Over-stretched hospital A & E Departments are bracing for a huge surge of older patients .
Now we read that NHS England is to share £2 million amongst eight charities to help them run projects to help keep the elderly out of hospitals this winter. It’s the first time national funds have been used in this way. The aim is to help the elderly so they avoid the falls and health problems that can mean admission to hospital and, for those who do need hospital treatment, better support when they are discharged so they don’t end up going back in again.
It’s a good idea and it will be great if it works. The report doesn’t say how the charities are going to be able to manage this. Last year the British Red Cross complained that its volunteers were being left ‘to pick up the pieces’ amid a growing crisis in care of the elderly.
The fact is that people need people. But natural every day contacts, such as the milkman with his daily deliveries and meals on wheels have largely disappeared, sunk by changing life styles, the supermarkets and the cost of red tape. Neighbours, who used to pop in to make sure old folk were OK, are all at work, and so are adult children. Also, many are no longer living near their parents and relatives.
Winter brings dark days, in more ways than one. But all over the country, churches are shining lights into older people’s lives. Many churches are running programmes for older people, both in the fellowship and in the neighbourhood. They run lunch clubs, afternoon events and some have even set up ‘home help’ type schemes. I heard of a council leader in Wales who was so impressed with the help his mother received from her church when she was ill that he directed the Social Services department to include churches when planning their resources. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a readily available government fund for local churches to help support the vulnerable old in their neighbourhoods? It could help strengthen what they are already doing, and make such a difference.
I’m going to buy one of those old fashioned football rattles that you can swing and make a loud noise of jubilation when you see a good score. I’m going to take it to talks I give and to conferences and events like New Wine. Because there is so much to celebrate right now!
Over the last two weeks at Shepton Mallet I’ve met so many church leaders who are passionate about valuing older people and whose churches are running a range of projects aimed at helping them that I’m wondering if this is the beginning of a sea change here in the UK.
With tear-filled eyes, a vicar said, ‘I can’t bear to hear about the way so many older people are being treated.’
Another said, ‘Older people are like treasure chests, full of experience and wisdom.’
If I’d had the rattle it would have been going full pelt for these two, and non-stop at other times. It looked that something like 350 people came to hear my talk, ‘How to Prepare for a Great Old Age’, and they were just as interested in helping people they knew as helping themselves. Yay!
Historically, the Christian church has been in the forefront of social change: education, welfare, health, and so on. That’s how The Aged Pilgrims’ Friend Society came to be set up in 1807. The story goes that a bunch of young Christians, inspired by a sermon by George Whitfield got together and the charity was formed, by prayer and faith.
The leader of a large church in the South described robust initiatives they are running, and more they are planning. They are involving local GPs and Social Services along with other organisations.
And it’s not coming from a ‘top-down’. helping the ‘poor old souls’, but from a genuine appreciation of the value of every soul to God, whatever their age.
Where can I buy a football rattle?
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Christian providers of respite, residential, nursing and dementia care. Also retirement apartments for assisted living and for extra care housing, and fully equipped houses for missionaries' home leave.
We share our experience and knowledge at seminars and conferences, at national and regional level.