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Covid-19 has highlighted low status of older people in society, survey finds

28 May 2021

Anna Chaplaincy: elderly sidelined or cast as too frail to contribute


THE Covid-19 crisis has confirmed the low social status of older people, a religious group dedicated to serving the elderly suggests.

The report of a survey of the Anna Chaplaincy’s operations since it was founded a decade ago says: “All the problems created by the pandemic conspire to exacerbate existing issues rather than to create new ones. The very matters that should most concern us about ageing and ageism — attitudes that threaten self-worth, the ability to contribute to others and community, feelings of ‘invisibility’, the belief that older people are frail and unable to exercise autonomy — these are the stereotypes and attitudes that have become more entrenched.

“Our survey highlighted the issues of ageism — conscious or unconscious — that are already recognised as problematic in our society.”

The report, Where We Are a Decade On, published last week, says of “The Year of the Pandemic” that “It was a year of profound change and apparent stasis going hand-in-hand, distinguishing it from any other times of war or disaster that we have recently witnessed. The position of older people, and attitudes towards them have been at the forefront of policy and commentary.”

The chaplaincy, named after the faithful elderly widow Anna, in St Luke’s Gospel, has been part of the Bible Reading Fellowship since 2014. More than 80 of its members completed a detailed questionnaire for the survey. Fifteen in-depth interviews were conducted with chaplains, their supporting friends, older people, and carers.

Their observations reflect the times that they were living through, the report observes. “This makes these surveys particularly valuable . . for what they tell us about the place of older people in society and what must be addressed as a matter of urgency.” It says that, on average, each chaplain was spending 12.6 hours a week on this ministry. Most are volunteers, aged over 60, and four-fifths of them (83 per cent) are Anglican. They saw their work as making older people feel loved and cared for, helping them to grow in faith, giving them a voice, and helping them to contribute to church and the community.

“A society which either sidelines a substantial number of its members, : , is losing a valuable asset. Negative attitudes must change, not only towards older people, but equally towards those who care for them, whether family or professional,” the report says.

“Anna Chaplaincy intends to be amongst those at the forefront of making this happen. The movement is now planning for this, in terms of recruitment, funding and partnership.

“Alongside our plans for growth of the service, we will be extending our support and training; Chaplains questioned in the surveys were keen to develop their confidence in offering and understanding five main areas: being alongside people with dementia; end-of-life, loss and bereavement care; supporting care staff and family carers; working with volunteers, teams and partners; introducing new initiatives such as Messy Vintage.”

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