Q: Was this something that residents wanted?
A: The idea came from different places but definitely the residents have asked for this. We have volunteers and part-time or retired ministers who come to serve, but nothing permanent. That makes it hard to build close relationships. This program is very important for our residents' spiritual health.
Q: Are there health benefits as well?
A: Wesley Woods has a very effective wellness program that helps increase residents' independence, balance and mobility. This pastoral care program really rounds that out. If you look at why older adults decline, some of the key factors are what you might expect — falls and chronic disease and health issues. But another huge factor is loneliness or depression and isolation.
Q: If I am Jewish or an atheist, would this program be available to me?
A: Absolutely. We were founded by the Methodist Church but people of any faith, or no faith, can live at a Wesley Woods community. The fact that these chaplains are ordained means that they are trained, educated and have a passion for providing pastoral care.
Q: How is the grant money going to be spent?
A: This incredibly generous gift from the O. Wayne Rollins Foundation will endow the leadership position in perpetuity. The director will build the program. While we have some sources of funding, we will continue to seek other resources to hire the community-based chaplains.
Q. What are you hoping that the director will accomplish?
A. Our goal is to create a vital and essential program. Many of those called to serve, specifically to pastoral care, have a heart for older adults. They want to give others emotional and spiritual support to help them celebrate the good times and navigate the challenges of their lives.
The Sunday Conversation is edited for length and clarity. Writer Ann Hardie can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.