The weather was unpredictable, but the passion for personal and congregational growth was strong. 175 Virginians from throughout the state braved the rain and snow to gather at Lynchburg College on March 14, 2017 for the Faithful Aging Conference. This unique educational opportunity was conceptualized by Denise Scruggs, director of the Beard Center on Aging at Lynchburg College, and Martha Stokes, director of church and community relations of Virginia United Methodist Homes, Inc. The Faithful Aging was the first statewide, faith-based conference of its type addressing opportunities related to an aging congregation and meeting the needs of older members, inside and outside the walls of our faith communities.
The morning keynote was given by Verna Sellers, MD, MPH, geriatrician and medical director, geriatric services and programs, Centra PACE, on the topic of caregiving: past, present and future. Sellers’ progressive and thoughtful view on caregiving was the perfect kick-off for the day.
Professionals from throughout the state of Virginia presented on a wide range of topics during two concurrent sessions.The first session included a best practices panel and topics on the following interests: building a dementia-friendly church, aging and loss, supporting our caregivers, taking the stress out of visitations. The second session offered topics on understanding and navigating senior services, the generational differences and the church, helping older members live a purposeful life and stay connected through church activities and volunteer opportunities, and tips for helping older church members stay legally and financially safe.
Presenters were able to connect with the attendees on an intimate level. Resources were provided and the attendees were given the opportunity to ask questions. God’s love was reflected in the encouraging words of the presenters and the tearful and inspiring stories of attendees.
Throughout the day conference attendees were able to network with one another and the 48 exhibitors set-up throughout the Drysdale Student Center. Exhibitors ranged from retirement communities to hospitals and Leading Age Virginia to Senior News. The multitude of organizations and individuals involved speaks to the increasing need for educational opportunities such as this conference.
Wrapping up the afternoon was a keynote from Martha Stokes, director of church and community relations, Virginia United Methodist Homes, Inc., and Rev. Dr. Will Randolph, director, office on aging and older adult ministries, Discipleship Ministries, United Methodist Church, titled "An Opportunity to Transform and Transcend". Attendees left Lynchburg feeling inspired, buzzing about when the next conference will be.
With the help of a diverse planning committee, eleven gold sponsors including the Older Adult Council of the Virginia Conference, nine silver sponsors and several months of planning, the first state-wide conference on aging was a success!
Allie Smith is the Communications and Engagement Coordinator. She joined the team in November 2016 and loves connecting with team members, residents and community members.