‘When arranging visits to my grandmother, finding time is a great problem,’ wrote a contributor to the Letters page of a national newspaper.  ‘With so many social engagements and things to do it’s very difficult for her to find space in her diary.’  She is typical of people who are living full lives into their 90s and 100s, while many are contributing actively to the their churches’ work, including helping those who are less able, what areever their age.

‘God’s purpose in later life,’ was the theme of our Annual Conference 2018, and All Nations’ Centre in Leicester was packed with people of all ages keen to explore it. Keynote speaker was evangelist Roger Carswell, who spoke on encouraging older people to reach others and the usefulness of Tracts,  while author and speaker Revd Roger Hitchings, showed how keeping active in God’s service is a biblical means of enriching later years: that godly activity enhances individuals’ spiritual lives. Revd Ian Knox described practical ways of sharing the gospel with older people, and Rob Rolls, of the Salvation Army, shared examples of successful mission and discipleship of older people.

Cognitive behavioural therapist and author, Louise Morse, said the key to understanding seniors’ purpose in later life is in Ephesians 2:10, which describes how God has given specific talents for ‘good works’, but many older people’s expectations have been lowered by ageism.  Louise also examined the causes of loneliness and how churches can help, beginning with those in our own church fellowships.

Dr Jennifer Bute, FRCGP, who was diagnosed with dementia 10 years ago said that ‘If we embrace what God has given us, He can do great things,’ and described having dementia as a ’glorious opportunity’, one where, with her medical background, she can help others understand it and live with it better.  Dr Bute also spoke on finding joy and peace in tough places, showing how the Scriptures help us through all our circumstances, whatever they are.

There was encouragement for carers, with Dr Sarah Jones, a former consultant in medicine for older people who retired early to take care of the husband’s elderly mother.  She showed how believers can encourage others in a caring role.

The centre point of the conference was PFS’s Annual Meeting, which was an opportunity for supporters to hear about our work over the past year, and our plans looking ahead.  It’s often said that PFS conferences are always more than the sum of their parts.   It was certainly true this year where, as well as benefiting from individual sessions, everyone enjoyed others’ friendship and fellowship.  One person told us that his group had enjoyed last year’s conference so much they decided to come again this year, and were not disappointed!  Another said: “All excellent and informative speakers.  Also, very good to chat to other delegates.  A very inspirational day!”   ENDS

Louise Morse

Louise Morse MA (CBT) is media and external relations manager for the Pilgrims’ Friend Society. She is a writer and speaker, and author of books on issues of old age, including dementia, published by Lion Monarch and SPCK. She is a cognitive behavioural therapist, and her Masters’ dissertation examined the effects of caring for a loved one with dementia on close relatives.

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