This book is not about old age, but essentially it is about old people, known and loved or lost and bemused. The heart of the book is the hearing and re-telling of the faith stories of fifteen of the oldest old, all of whom are living in residential care settings. The stories outline the lives they have lived and the impact they have made on their listeners.
The book outlines a theoretical basis for exploring the phenomenon of ageing and its effects on society as a whole, with a particular emphasis on the spiritual aspects of ageing, the Churchs response to older people and the place of storytelling.
In the final section of the book, five individuals bring their insight and experience into dialogue with the stories of the oldest old, exploring issues around faith development, doubt and dementia, and detailing some vital lessons for the contemporary ageing Church.
Malcolm Johnson, AcSS, FRSA is Visiting Professor of Gerontology and end-of-life care at the University of Bath.
Keith Albans joined MHA in September 2001. He is responsible for spiritual and pastoral welfare of the staff and service users within the organisation and maintaining links with the Methodist Church and the wider church.
Most books focus on positive ageing, and prefer to ignore the challenges of the fourth age, the age of frailty. This book, which tells the stories of the oldest of people, in care homes, through the lenses of chaplains, will be of immense value to all who work with older people. It also challenges the mainline churches to accept the ageing of both society and churches, to address the special needs for spiritual growth and nurture as well as pastoral care of older people.
"A beautiful and instructive book about the oldest old in Britain today that demonstrates the value of listening and attending to them with empathy. It has important messages not only for Christian churches but for all those interested in improving care standards for the ageing members of our society".
This book will help us all learn how to age as well as we can with or without a faith to guide us. It provides authentic voices from older people, from narrators and interpreters the combination of which make it a rare and important read.
This is an important book from which we learn that the very old should be taken seriously, listening to their stories is not for them alone and the Church should review its mission strategy to older people. It is a book which makes a new contribution
to the pastoral and spiritual care of the very old. Chaplains working with the very old should read it, but its value extends well beyond this to everyone engaged in pastoral ministry.