The new face of aging in America — Mid-Lifers

September 10, 2013

HOUSTON — When it comes to supporting parish activities that enhance the spiritual, social and physical well-being of older adults in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, one might think this applies only to those who are age 65 or older. Not so.

“We must have an understanding of what is known as the ‘Graying of America’ or the movement of the baby-boom generation into retirement,” said Katherine Bingham, director of the Office of Aging, a ministry in the Archdiocese that assists in developing senior groups and providing opportunities for formation, training and education at the parish level. “It’s imperative that our office focuses on the needs of these ‘mid-lifers,’ both as caregivers and those whose own aging will be healthy, productive and spiritually grounded.”

The Office of Aging, which is funded by the Diocesan Services Fund (DSF), is developing education and training opportunities to encourage planning for a longer, healthier and more financially stable retirement. 

To aid parishes with programs addressing these issues for both older adults and their caregivers, the Office of Aging helps to identify Archdiocesan resources that enhance the individual’s independence and their ability to plan for their future.

“Our reach is extensive and in demand — approximately 100 parishes with active senior adult groups utilize our services and programs,” Bingham said. “The Archdiocese covers 10 counties: Austin, Brazoria, Fort Bend, Galveston, Grimes, Harris, Montgomery, San Jacinto, Walker and Waller; we provide some level of support to parishes in all these counties. This is an evolving and expanding ministry and we must adjust with and respond to the needs of older adults in our parish communities.”

She said the needs of seniors vary based on life circumstances; however, the ministry frequently receives requests for information on affordable and accessible housing, as well as assistance with locating affordable and trustworthy caregivers to assist elders with their desire to age in place.

When it comes to advocacy on behalf of elder issues in our Archdiocese, the Office of Aging participates in groups, such as the Advisory Council of the Harris County Area Agency on Aging, the local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, Catholic Charities Advocacy Committee, the Houston Financial Abuse Services Team and the program services committee of St. Dominic Village. Other efforts also have included providing input and consultation on legislative issues impacting older adults through the Bishop’s Texas Catholic Conference.
Bingham said that to fund these programs and services, DSF funding is essential.

“All the senior group activity at the parish level is led by volunteers, and our office provides training, workshops and resources to build leadership at this level,” she said.

She said some examples of the activities that could not happen without DSF support include the following: providing staff to visit, assist, and update parish senior groups; conducting three Senior Senates that are geographically located to more efficiently disseminate information to parish leadership across our counties and minimize the travel required by seniors; and hosting an annual day of prayer and a spring workshop series focused on aging and care-giving topics.

“The Office of Aging must continue to be sensitive to the issues and directions in our present as well as our future, which includes continuing to provide information and support to pastors, parishes and older adults, including family care givers,” she said. 

“We also are increasing partnerships with like-missioned organizations — Catholic Charities, San Jose Clinic, St. Dominic Village — to build a network of referral sources and resources in the Archdiocese to assist older adults and their families. As I said before, we are beginning to address the needs of ‘mid-lifers,’ both as caregivers and so that their own aging will be healthy, productive and spiritually grounded.”