Just over a year ago I was asked by the Editor of the Messenger magazine to write a booklet on issues that were relevant for people in their later years. The booklet was to be suitable for a general, not an academic, audience. In April of this year ‘Challenges in Later Life’ was published by Messenger Publications, so how did it evolve?
Many years ago I became aware of the range of human needs – physical, social, intellectual, emotional and spiritual, so this is how the booklet begins. Taking each of these areas at a practical level you will find a number of challenges indicated in the booklet. This is followed by suggestions as to how you might address these difficulties. Each section ends by relating challenges in that area of human need to incidents in the Gospels, followed by a suggestion that might lead to prayer.
A short section follows exploring how you might feel about the challenges you encounter. Do they make you feel sad, mad or glad? There could be lots of other emotions that you might encounter but this is a booklet to help people develop awareness so it is good to start in a limited way.
There is a section on communication and some of the challenges in this area. The emphasis is on ways we communicate other than speech, i.e. non-verbal communication. A huge amount is conveyed for example by our facial expression, our body language and especially by our tone of voice.
Following that we look at challenges around going into care – what is involved about continuing to live at home both from the point of view of the older person but also from the perspective of the family; one also needs to look at what would be involved in going into care, again from the perspective of the older person and also looking at it through the eyes of the family.
Towards the end of the booklet there is a descriptive list of contacts and agencies to which we can turn for specific advice of support
At the end of the booklet Spirituality Resources provided by Sonas apc are described, Ciúnas is for the older person from the Roman Catholic tradition while the Serenity Spirituality Sessions are used in groups in Nursing Homes where group members come from any Christian tradition.
Finally there is a description of Spiritual Reminiscence which helps older people to find meaning in the lives they have lived and to look back at what has stayed with them emotionally and spiritually.