A054 Create a Task Force on Senior Wellness and Positive Aging
Resolved, the House of Bishops concurring,
That the 80th General Convention authorize the creation of a Task Force on Senior Wellness and Positive Aging, among its goals to:
- Identify the major challenges to positive aging;
- Communicate with congregations, dioceses, and provinces to collect information about their approaches to these challenges;
- Explore networks in which the Task Force can be a meaningful partner;
- Coordinate with the Presiding Bishop’s staff to ascertain facets of their ministries in which the Task Force might have a useful role to play;
- Review existing General Convention policy on aging and senior wellness to identify gaps and opportunities, and consult with the Office of Government Relations to identify areas where political advocacy could be useful. Consider developing resolutions for Executive Council and General Convention that identify advocacy priorities for positive aging and senior wellness.
- Initiate conversation with leading non-profit senior care providers and advocates, particularly those affiliated with The Episcopal Church;
And be it further
Resolved, That the Task Force will produce a resource of best practices for congregations, dioceses and provinces to support their ministries to persons in the second half of life as they strive to participate meaningfully and creatively in life-long learning and to engage constructively in the communities in which they live; and be it further
Resolved, That this Task Force will report annually to The Executive Council and to the 81st General Convention; and be it further
Resolved, That this task force be appointed jointly by the Presiding Officers, with between 10 and 14 members, two to four of whom shall be bishops, two to four of whom shall be clergy, and not more than six lay persons, with the members having some professional, pastoral or medical background in senior care and wellness; and be it further
Resolved, That the General Convention request that the Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget and Finance consider a budget allocation of $30,000 for the implementation of this resolution.
In the midst of an enormous demographic shift in the number of people over 65 in the United States and the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on this segment of the population, our Baptismal Covenant’s call to “strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being” must be an urgent incentive to be a catalyst for dialogue, analysis, and change in the way society nurtures its older members.
There are daunting challenges that accompany the demographic shift that is taking place in the United States population, as well as that of most other developed countries, as the number of adults over 65 years of age nearly doubles by the year 2050 (increasing from 43.1 million in 2012 to 83.7 million in 2050). All segments of the senior care system will be put under great stress as people in this demographic wave seek ways to age positively and ensure ongoing wellness.
We have witnessed the devastating impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on older individuals, exposing the vulnerability of those over 65 by highlighting questions surrounding long-term care communities, hospital preparedness, supply chains for critical medical equipment, the psychological and physical effects of isolation, and coordinated governmental response, as well as a host of other issues bearing upon senior wellness. Some 80% of COVID-19 deaths have been in people over 65 years old. Approximately 7% of all cases, and 40% of all deaths have been related to long-term care facilities, nursing homes particularly.
Faith communities have a vital role to play in being a powerful advocate for a holistic approach to senior wellness and positive aging, calling for the inclusion of spiritual, cultural, mental, intellectual, and social wellness alongside physical care. The Episcopal Church has taken an active role in older adult ministries historically. The Episcopal Society for Ministry to the Aging (ESMA) was active from 1970 to 2003. A Task Force on Older Adult Ministries was authorized in 2009, re-authorized in 2012, its work curtailed in 2015. This is an important time for The Episcopal Church to reengage in this vital area of ministry.