Auckland Baptist churches will be among those taking part in a survey on aging and spirituality. The questionnaire is seeking data about the spiritual needs of older people and the education and training requirements of those who seek to meet those needs.
The Selwyn Centre for Aging and Spirituality is sending the six page questionnaire to Auckland churches of all denominations and has the support of the Baptist Union.
The Selwyn Centre’s director is Dr Chris Perkins, a psychiatrist specialising in working with the elderly. Chris has been in her role since 2008. The Centre’s work is based on research into spirituality among older people and how it is met or ignored.
“We are starting to educate people in this area,” says Chris. “One string of the bow is aimed at people with no particular religious belief, another person does education with people from churches. It is interesting that so many people from so many walks of life are saying this is important to them.
“We run two-day workshops on spirituality which are promoted widely through the health and aged care sector. We ask, what is spirituality? What happens as we age? How do our beliefs change with age?”
There is now a growing demand for these workshops right across the country, she says.
“With age people think more about ‘what am I here for?’ Most people we deal with come from a background in religion. Some have rejected Christianity, others are Christian but still find it useful to come to the workshops.”
Chris says the survey is specifically aimed at church people – ministers or lay – looking at how they care for aged people both in their community and in their church.
She has already sent out a similar questionnaire to chaplains working in aged care. The results are just starting to come in and are already showing some interesting trends.
“It seems suffering and facing death questions are not such a big deal – most have already come to terms with that. But there is more concern about loss and grief, sense of purpose, loneliness and isolation.”
The church survey includes questions about how churches keep track of elderly people who are no longer able to attend church, the challenges of reaching and ministering to those not actively involved in church, whether churches conduct services in residential facilities for older people, and a series of questions about the spiritual needs of elderly people in the community.
Once collated, the results will be circulated back to those who took part, as well as published in relevant journals.