New Paradigm Needed to Make Senior Adults’ Years Their Best, Say Encore Alliance Leaders

Written by Paul R. Kopenkoskey on . Posted in Local

tomcEncore Alliance vice president Rev. Tom Couch said senior adults’ problems are not going away any time soon.Older adults face a growing number of trials. The nonprofit ministry, Encore Alliance of Greater Grand Rapids (EAGGR), has an ambitious program intended to make their later years rewarding.

But it requires helping seniors clear some challenging hurdles.

Rising healthcare costs, isolation, obesity, binge drinking and an increasing rate of sexually transmitted diseases are a handful of issues that promise to tarnish senior adults' golden years, according to a EAGGR-sponsored seminar that was attended by 45 community leaders at the Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corp Community Center.

Making encore years the best

Central to EAGGR's Encore Living Program's (ELP) mission is to enhance retirees' lives on numerous levels, said L. James Harvey, president of EAGGR.

"We want to make their encore years the best years of their lives," he said.

ELP's multi-level concentrate includes the physical, spiritual, educational, vocational, recreational, medical, emotional psychological, palliative care and service.

Perhaps its most ambitious goal is establishing a hub facility where EAGGR can be headquartered and many of its programs would be housed to promote interaction and cooperation among other senior adults.

jamesharveywifeEncore Alliance president L. James Harvey and his wife, Jackie.Such a focus grows increasingly vital, said Rev. Tom Couch, pastor of Grandville Bible Church and vice president of EAGGR.

"Neither society or the church is prepared to meet seniors' needs," said Couch. "We keep kicking the can down the road, hoping the problem will go away."

With 10,000 people turning 65 years old daily, and comprising 21 percent of the nation's population by 2029, seniors' will not be content to "loose your identity, self esteem and basically all social contact," Couch said. "The church is the best place to assembly four or five generations under one roof."

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But Couch tempered his optimism that churches can bring the generations into a unifying force with the realization that small congregations and mega churches typically have vastly different congregations.

Larger churches are infused with "new blood" largely because of new families, new births and evangelization while smaller ones are left to care for the elderly.

"The resources we're talking about today is inadequate and ineffective," said Couch. "Church is made up to be God when all it is called to do is represent God. Cooperation, ingenuity and synergy are absolutely necessary in where we are as a culture.

"My concern is increasing demands and decreasing resources."

A credible example of implementing a holistic approach to enhancing seniors' lives is Evergreen in Holland, Couch said. It provides a community center for active living, beneficial socialization and, if needed, in-home care.

It's time for such an outreach in the Grand Rapids area, said Couch.

"We need to make a new paradigm of how we see those in their elderly stage of life," he said. "Seniors must set personal goals in all these areas, recognizing man is more than a body."

And recognizing people are more than flesh and blood is a compelling reason for an initiative like ELP, said Harvey, which includes the goal of opening a senior village or mall in Greater Grand Rapids and partnering seniors with a facilitator who would provide one-on-one teaching.

"The senior years can be the best years of our lives but it depends on how active they stay mentally, physically, socially, spiritually and socially," said Harvey.


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