Elder groups in churches use gatherings and activities to socialize and grow spiritually.
At St. James Catholic Church in Elizabethtown, the Forever Young Club meets the second Tuesday of each month for a potluck and program.
“The programs cover topics of interest to our 50+ age group, such as gardening, travel, exercise, wellness and bingo,” said member Joyce Solar.
Sometimes musical groups come to play for the band and they go out to dinner a few times a year.
Solar said most of their activities take place at the church.
“I think members come for the social aspect and to be able to hang out and be with people,” she said.
There are about 40 active members and they all help prepare food for meetings and are often guest speakers, she said. The potluck is a highlight, she says, and group members enjoy showing off recipes and a variety of foods.
“This group helps keep our members socially active and engaged with our church community,” she said.
At the Valley View Baptist Church in Vine Grove, a seniors’ group meets called Classic Christians 50+.
“They always seemed to have such a good time, as soon as I turned 50 I volunteered to be on the committee planning the activities,” said organizer Tonya Vowels. “Basically anyone 50 and over can sign up and go on our trips, but I don’t verify anyone’s identity.”
She said one of the women in her 80s told her she never lied about her age, just about her weight.
There are usually 15 to 35 leaving on each trip.
They did activities such as chocolate tour tasting many chocolate items in Warsaw, going to shows, visiting Kentucky Castle, having lunch in Bardstown, visiting Kentucky High School Basketball Hall of Fame, watching a show at the Derby Dinner Playhouse and eat lunch at a variety of restaurants, Vowels said.
In August they will go to the Kentucky State Fair and in September they will take a trip to the Simpsonville Mall.
She said many of the older adults involved lived alone and had served the church and community for most of their lives, and she wanted to honor them in any way possible.
“Our goal is to empower seniors to have fun experiences and connect with other people,” she said. “Thanks to generous donations to our Designated Fund, we are able to keep the cost of each trip to $5 or $10.”
By keeping it affordable, those on fixed incomes can afford to travel, Vowels said.
“Some of them don’t feel comfortable driving around the places we visit, so they’re able to do things they might not be able to do on their own,” she said. . “They’ve invited friends to attend events with us, which allows us to show people that church people can have a lot of fun and that we’re not just a bunch of stuffy old bonzes.”
She said that at this point in most of their lives, their faith is strong because God has been faithful.
“Hearing the stories shared in this group of what God has put people through is encouraging, uplifting and gives you a whole new level of respect for what people have been through in their lives,” Vowels said.
Retha Wilcoxson, 75, has been involved with Classical Christians for about a year. She had some free time lately and was able to participate.
“It’s fun and we’ve been to places I’ve never been before,” she said. “We had a lot of fun going back and forth in the van.”
The affair, she said, is a highlight and she has made a very good friend being part of the group.
“It’s a fun, supportive and bonding group for our church family,” she said. “It’s something to look forward to going out with a band.”
She said that some members of the group don’t go out as much and senior outings give them the opportunity to experience things they may not have experienced before.
It means a lot to them that the church offers them these activities, she said.
They went to Gethsemane Abbey and she said it was beautiful and inspiring.
“We all grew up and enjoyed going through this,” she said. “It’s just fun to be with everyone.”
On the last trip, they had two truckloads and several cars that followed, she said.
Emory Riley, senior adult pastor at Severns Valley Baptist Church in Elizabethtown, oversees senior activities at the church.
“We strive to provide opportunities for older adults to grow spiritually, to fellowship with one another, and to serve the Lord and our community,” he said. “We also encourage our senior adults to invest in the next generation through discipleship and mentorship.”
There are usually 100 to 125 attending the gatherings and activities. Although there is no specific age range, he said church members usually start arriving around the age of 65 and some are still attending into their 90s.
During the school year, there is a monthly lunch program that covers a variety of topics such as spiritual growth, community ministry opportunities, and issues seniors face in their lives.
“Our senior adult choir meets on Tuesdays to sing, pray and laugh together,” he said. “Before COVID, the choir performed musical programs at local care facilities.”
There is also a weekly exercise group that meets at the church. Seniors have attended conferences, gone to concerts, and there are opportunities for Bible studies and a quilt Bible study, Riley said.
He said society tells people to retire and enjoy life, but he said his goal was to help older adults see that God has much more for them.
“We want them to have opportunities to grow and fellowship together, but also to see that no matter what age they have something to offer the church and the community,” Riley said.