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Winter Park church member helps older adults, families deal with aging

Winter Park church member helps older adults, families deal with aging

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Winter Park church member helps older adults, families deal with aging

Aug. 10, 2005    News media contact:  Tita Parham*    
800-282-8011     Orlando {0344} 

An e-Review Feature
By J.A. Buchholz**

WINTER PARK — Families in America are growing older; so are many congregations.

Arthur Cross said that realization prompted him to do something that would educate both church members and people in his community about issues associated with aging. He began coordinating the five-week program, "As Families Grow Older," which wrapped up its second annual presentation in March.

Cross is a member of First United Methodist Church, Winter Park. He retired to the area in 1990 from North Carolina. During his 30 years in the special education field, he discovered there were a myriad of issues impacting older adults that many people did not know about unless they were personally dealing with them. Cross thought the church could help people learn about those issues before experiencing them or finding themselves in stressful or crisis situations. Cross and Betsy McKeeby, the church's parish nurse, chose the "As Families Grow Older" curriculum from the Winter Park Health Foundation to help people steer through the whole topic of aging.

The target audience was seniors and their potential future and current caregivers. Between 15 and 25 people met for an hour to 90 minutes every Wednesday for five weeks. Sessions focused on navigating the health care system, housing issues, legal and financial issues, end-of-life issues, and family dynamics. Experts in each field presented information and answered questions.

"I knew if I could build it, they would come. Folks were hungry for it," said Cross, who is the health ministry lay leader for his church. "So many families don't know what to do or where to go. We were sort of like the library. We put all of the related topics together for people in one place."

And the people came. Cross said some church members brought along their neighbors or friends. He said some people told him they wished they had down-sized earlier in life by moving out of their long-time family home into a smaller one or an assisted living facility while they were younger and healthier.

Those who weren't personally experiencing the issues that were addressed or helping family members deal with them also enjoyed the sessions, according to Cross, who said he saw many people taking notes and jotting down information for future reference.

"This had broad educational outreach," he said.

McKeeby said the response from local experts was outstanding.

"It's a great program," said the member of Sanlando United Methodist Church in Longwood. "We found that health-care workers were very willing to come spend their time to talk to us."

So much so that McKeeby and Cross want to educate the church and the greater community about other health-related topics, such as Alzheimer's, childhood obesity and mental health, in the future.

McKeeby said there is a definite connection between mind, body and spirit. "There is an emphasis in The United Methodist Church to try and help people realize the relationship between mind, body and spirit," she said. "The goal is not a selfish thing to increase our number of days here, but to increase the quality of time we have left with the body He gave us."

Cross said he's glad the program went over well and hopes future sessions will be just as well-received.

"You don't want these things to happen but it's never too soon to think about 'later,' " he said.


This article relates to Health and Wholeness.

*Parham managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Buchholz is a staff writer for e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.