Assistant parish priest Father Kenny Tan chats with parishioners at this social night organised for the elderly. Photo by Augustine Low

SINGAPORE – Church of Christ the King has launched one of its first initiatives towards caring for its elderly, sick, and lonely parishioners.

The social night themed “Those Were The Days” held Apr 24 drew about 50 elderly parishioners in what the Parish Pastoral Council chairman Samuel Tan described as “a non-threatening, more welcoming way” to reach out towards this target group.

The event was organised specially for the ambulant elderly who came together to share their experiences and learn of various ways that the parish can be of service to them.

Examples included financial support through the Society of St. Vincent de Paul conference, prayers via the Legion of Mary or Divine Mercy groups, and even recreation through STOMP, the parish’s line-dancing group.

“This night is meant to help them realise a better quality life… that being old does not have to be about being lonely,” said Mr Tan. “Hopefully after tonight, they will know a little bit more about how the church can help them. We want to build [connections] between church and parishioners; and community bonding between SCCs and parishioners.”

The 50-odd elderly who turned up were treated to dinner, songs and games, before organisers ferried them home individually.

Parish priest Father Peter Koh summed up the evening when he said, “We invited them not just because it is a parish concern, but these are the people who are always precious to the Church of God. They made their contribution to the Church in their younger days, and now it’s their time to sit back and to let us serve them.”

Serving the elderly, sick and lonely

The ministry that organised the Apr 24 event is known by the working name of the “Elderly, Sick and Lonely” (ESL) service group.

It was formed in July 2009 from members belonging to various parish ministries already pastorally involved in the service of the elderly. Such groups included the Evergreen Group, the Legion of Mary, Sodality Group, and the Small Christian Communities (SCCs).

The ESL service group set up a Central Register in the parish that collects and organises detailed particulars of elderly parishioners aged 60 and above. These records include their next-of-kin, and a list of services that they require, because, as Mr Tan explained, “We really do not know who the elderly, sick, and lonely [among us] are.”

The Central Register will primarily track and monitor the growth of elderly parishioners. The data collected will be studied and used to provide for their various needs. It will also help SCCs seeking to integrate these parishioners into their respective support groups.

In December 2009, the parish conducted its first survey of the elderly. The 200 elderly in contact with the parish through the SCCs highlighted their areas of need: prayer (48 percent), social visits (30 percent), medical support (11 percent), help with transportation (nine percent), and meals (three percent).

The ESL service group intends to have frequent social events like the one held Apr 24, and to explore other activities to reach out specifically to those who are sick and homebound. Future plans include the introduction of sessions on the spirituality of ageing.

In March, Church of Christ the King hosted one of Professor Elizabeth MacKinlay’s session in the Dignity of the Elderly project jointly organised by the Singapore Pastoral Institute, Family Life Society, and Caritas Singapore.

The parish will hold two more seminars on Jul 2 and Aug 10 this year.

By Joyce Gan
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