Older Adult Ministry in Congregations

Residents of Brooksby Village Senior Living Center visit the UUA

Residents of Brooksby Village Senior Living Center, Peabody, MA, visit UUA headquarters.

There are many different settings where older adults can find programming that reflects our religious values and enriches the spiritual journey. Congregations can offer programs that are appropriate for this stage of life, with professional staff or skilled lay leaders as guides and facilitators. Senior living centers and organizations that serve older adults often offer such programs. Sometimes, older adults participate in programs guided by Unitarian Universalist (UU) values offered in locations away from home.

Programs to Offer in a Local Setting

  • Hindsight, Humor, and Hope: Who, Me, an Elder?
    Helps people as they begin to redesign their later years into a time of reflection, discernment, soul stretching, and new life possibilities. This gift of extended years finds many people becoming elders with deep personal questions such as, Who am I now? and What will I do that is meaningful? (6 two-hour workshops)
  • From the High Hill: Odyssey Writing for Elders
    Engages elders in mining the stories of a lifetime to create a presentation to share with peers, loved ones, and co-congregants.(2 weekend retreats frame a period of personal work)
  • Three books by Christine Robinson and Alicia Hawkins offer a reimagined model of small group ministry, with readings, journaling suggestions, and thought-provoking exercises to help participants prepare for the spiritual practice of sharing in community. Each promotes listening rather than back-and-forth discussion, using a deep listening method that allows participants to feel truly heard in a safe setting,
    • Heart to Heart (Skinner, 2009) offers resources for fourteen gatherings on topics such as forgiveness, loss, balance, nature, money, doubt, and friendship.
    • Soul to Soul (Skinner, 2011) offers resources for fourteen additional gatherings on topics which include trust, spiritual experiences, addiction, play, and resilience.
    • Listening Hearts (Skinner, 2015) is the third volume in the series. It offers resources for fourteen gatherings on topics ranging from mental wellness and miracles to leaps of faith and bucket lists.

Programs Offered by Unitarian Universalist Organizations

  • The UU College of Social Justice offers experiential learning journeys and social justice training to help Unitarian Universalists deepen and sustain the work of justice in their congregations and communities. Programs help people cross boundaries, gain insight, and imagine new ways to bring their faith together with their yearning to make a difference in the world. Particularly suitable for older adults are Journeys trips to places such as Nicaragua, Haiti, the U.S. Mexican Border, and Lummi Nation in the Northwestern United States. Groups of people can also plan a Congregational Journey.
  • Unitarian Universalist Camps, Retreats and Conferences often offer programs that have an older adult focus. Choose a nearby camp or conference center, or visit an one far from home. Here is a sample:
    • In August 2016, Ferry Beach Park Association will offer Creatively Aging with Grace, a women's conference. Quiliting by the Bay is also a popular conference for older adults.
    • Star Island Family Conference and Retreat Center September conferences are more relaxed and cater mostly to an older adult community focused on lifelong learning.
    • Rowe Camp and Conference Center offers a variety of programs year-round that nurture spiritual growth and lifelong learning. Rowe also offers facilities for personal retreats.
    • The Mountain Retreat and Learning Center offers two programs for older adults. SUUFI (Southern UU Fall Institute) is an annual October gathering to expand mind, body and soul; this year's theme is Creative Play. Appalachian Spring (May 2016) offers experiences with art, music, and dance from southern and mountain life.
  • Living Legacy Pilgrimages are experiential learning opportunities which deepen understanding of the Civil Rights Movement by visiting the sites where it happened and talking with the people who lived it.
  • The Unitarian Universalist Partner Church Council offers pilgrimages for those who wish to meet the Unitarians and Unitarian Universalists in other countries and experience our faith in action in different cultures
Woman sweeping at First UU San Antonio campus work day

A member of First UU San Antonio participates in Campus Work Day.

Circle of older adults chatting at The Mountain Retreat and Learning Center

SUUFI participants chatting at The Mountain Retreat and Learning Center.

participants stretching at a Ferry Beach conference

Participants stretch at a Ferry Beach conference.

UUCSJ co-leader Mahesh Upadhyaya receives a blessing from the priest at the ancient sacred site we visited near Usgaon.

UUCSJ co-leader Mahesh Upadhyaya receives a blessing from the priest at the ancient sacred site the Journey to India group visited near Usgaon.

Listening Hearts book cover
Cover: Heart to Heart: Fourteen gatherings for Reflection and Sharing, by Christine Robinson and Alicia Hawkins.