3 December 2022

Aged care residents find faith program absorbing

St Thomas’ Burwood Reverend John Carrick keeps aged care participants engaged with Alpha. Picture: Supplied by Reverend John Carrick.

Jenan Taylor

13 July 2022

A Burwood church’s efforts to help people in aged care connect with their Christianity is showing promising results.

St Thomas’ has been running an Alpha course at the Freedom Burwood aged care facility since May.

Lead minister the Reverend John Carrick said a group of 10 residents had joined the course, and most seem to come back every week.

Some had told him it was because they found the course very worthwhile, Mr Carrick said.

Having conducted monthly church services at the facility for years, he said he had noticed that the residents were particularly engaged.

Mr Carrick said it was something that in his experience was not usually the case, so it encouraged him to start the course there.

The Alpha format usually involves a group meeting over a meal, a video presentation and then a discussion about faith.  At the end of the program there would be a retreat for participants.

But at the aged care residence, Mr Carrick made sure each session ran for no longer than an hour and that it comprised the typical video program along with 30 minutes of discussion.

The meal part was naturally incorporated because the program started at 11.30am and the residents had lunch at 12.30pm.

He said the participants were absorbed with the video and conversations and that he kept things interactive and interesting by asking questions and trying not to use too many notes.

“Some people are very much into it and ask some quite probing questions. Then there are some who won’t say as much but are still engaged, and others who following along, quietly.”

He said some of the talk revolved around their children and how they engaged with faith.

One of the participants had been 102 years old, Mr Carrick said. “He’d been lucid and particularly thoughtful.”

Unfortunately, the gent had moved out of the facility recently and Mr Carrick was hopeful that there was a way for him to return to finish the program.

Read more: The key to growth? It’s been the humble sofa at this church

Instead of the retreat at the course’s culmination, Mr Carrick was considering asking the group to do two intensive final sessions.

He said it would mean splitting each session into a morning and an afternoon gathering.

But Mr Carrick said running Alpha at the facility had entailed negotiating some minor challenges.

They were usually around the odd person falling asleep, as the room where he conducted the gathering was warm and very comfortable.

He said occasionally a resident might walk out and that one or two of the participants were wrestling dementia.

Even so, the responses had been heartening, he said.

The facility’s managers had also been pleased at the engagement they were seeing among the residents who participated.

“They seem keen for this to continue, so I wouldn’t be surprised if Alpha was something that became offered annually,” Mr Carrick said.

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