The following are some examples of how older
people exemplify the blessings of age, along with a "contact" who can
provide additional information.
- Today, at the turn of the century, more than one in eight Americans -- over 33 million people are at least 65.
- At the beginning of the century, older persons numbered only 1 in every 25 Americans.2
- By 2030, about one in five, or 20 percent will be over 65.3
- The oldest old--those over 85-- are the most rapidly growing
older age group--Between 1960 and 1994, their numbers rose 274 percent.
By 2050, that would make them 24 percent of older Americans and 5
percent of all Americans.4
- Older persons are increasingly diverse in ethnicity and
race--in 1990 1 in 10 elderly were listed as other than White. This will
double by 2050, while Hispanic elderly are expected to quadruple from 4
percent to 16 percent.5
- This new cadre of older persons is in better health, is better
educated, and is more affluent than at any other time in U.S. history.
is the U.S. affiliate of La Vie Montante, an
international Catholic organization of older persons founded in 1974
which stresses spirituality, friendship and service. Hugh Clear, its
U.S. director, emphasizes that "We want to show newly retired people
that there is no such thing as retirement from the Gospel." His Miami
group has a membership of over 250 people, primarily in their 60's to
Contact: Hugh Clear, 305-279-8455
Two years ago, 75 year old Shirley Stieffel
began working five to
six hours a day, six days a week, year-round to sew school clothes,
play clothes, dresses and blouses for forgotten kids, abused kids and
homeless kids all over the New Orleans area--and she's still at it.
Under the auspices of Catholic Charities, Mrs. Stieffel is a one-woman clothing operation
. This year she has expanded and added five assistants for the Christmas season.
George Gurtner, Catholic Charities New Orleans. 504-523-3755, ext 3009
For the sixth year in a row, over 100 people aged 50-90 gathered for Senior Summer Scripture Days
in Lansing, Michigan. Ellen McKay, the director of the bible camp,
explained that, "Seniors were really hungry for serious Scripture
study." To meet that need, Catholic Charities of Lansing invites
scripture scholars every summer to meet with older persons and give them
the benefit of current scholarship on the Bible.
Ellen McKay, 517-342-2465
The Archdiocese of Galveston/Houston
believes that, "...it is the
call of the Spirit within each one of us in our later years to continue
sharing our gifts and talents." In order to facilitate this sharing,
the Diocese has had an Office of Aging Ministry
since 1974 which
has a wide range of programs and services involving 150 parishes, a
newsletter with a circulation of over 4000, a Lay Advisory Council, a
senior senate with 82 members, four learning centers, and the Texas
Catholic Association for third age ministry, which covers all of Texas.
Katherine Bingham, 713-741-8712
Project H.E.A.D. (Help Experienced Adults Develop)
sponsored by the Diocese of Harrisburg, PA, since 1973. Their 6-point
program includes civic and legislative action as their members
"undertake constructive, non-partisan civic action...for the welfare of
the elderly in particularly and society in general." There are currently
over 50 clubs with 5000 members, and an elder council. The overall
philosophy of the ministry is that . . . older members of our families
and community are an essential part of the human community. Their needs
and desires are simply human, the same as those of the middle-aged and
the young -- to be loved, to be useful, to be wanted..."
Victoria Laskowski, Director of Family Ministries, 717-657-4804
The Ignatian Lay Volunteer Corp
began in 1995 and is currently
active in 9 cities, including Baltimore and Washington, D.C. Older
volunteers work 20 hours per week in many areas in these cities, using
the talents they have obtained in the workplace. As Ann Wagner, a
volunteer in Baltimore says, "Just as the saying, ‘growing old is not
for sissies', I believe being an ILVC'er is not for sissies--but it's
worth the effort!"
Barbara Castellano, Co-Director, 410- 788-8478. (She
will also be attending the Bishops' General Meeting as an observer, if
you would like to interview her there.)
The Diocese of Owensboro, Kentucky, has a Director of Wisdom
Ginny Knight who oversees an extensive program of elder ministry
including social, spiritual and service aspects as well as annual Days
of Wisdom. One feature of their newsletter is a column in which the
experiences and stories of older persons are passed on. One such
interview was with the five Pike sisters of Uniontown, Kentucky who
reminisced about growing up on a farm in rural Kentucky, living through
the 1937 flood, and teaching. They write that, "We feel our total of
151 years of teaching children of various backgrounds has brought peace
in our days, invaluable wisdom to our families, to souls, and to future
Ginny Knight, 502-683-1545
The Retired Senior Volunteer Program in Auburn, Indiana
older volunteers. Their oldest volunteer is 98 and has been making teddy
bears since she was 84. The program which is run through Catholic
Charities is funded by the Corporation for National Service.
Patti Sheppard, Program Director, 219-925-0917
Other contacts include:
- Charles Fahey, the Director of the Third Age Center at Fordham University, 718-817-4770
- Jane Stenson, with Catholic Charities, USA, 703-549-1390, ext 128.
The complete text of Pope John Paul II's recent "Letter to The Elderly" can be found at www.nccbuscc.org/laity/olderpersons.htm