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Christian charity urges churches to value older members as UN report finds one in two people are ageist

At least one in every two people are ageist towards older people, according to a new report by various leading UN agencies.

The study, which involved more than 83,000 participants across 57 countries, has revealed that 50 per cent of people hold moderately or highly ageist attitudes, often based on inaccurate stereotypes and perceptions.

As a result, older people have more limited career opportunities and also suffer from poorer physical and mental health due to younger people being prioritised for medical procedures and treatments.

Speaking to Premier, CEO of Faith in Later Life, Carl Knightly, highlighted how churches should reflect on the value of their older members, as well as make the most of intergenerational congregations.

“We want to encourage Christians to empower their older Christians, not just to serve them. We [need to] think about our older Christians leading prayer ministry. Are we using our older Christians to share with the youth about what it looks like to follow Christ faithfully for 60 years? Are we realising that we have a wealth of experience in our older Christians?”

According to the UN report, an estimated 6.3 million cases of depression globally are believed to be attributable to ageism. The covid pandemic has exacerbated the issue, with age being used in some contexts as the only determinant for access to lifesaving therapies and for physical isolation.

For Carl Knightly, it’s particularly important to be praying for older people in the context of the coronavirus restrictions.

“We need to pray that older people are not afraid to leave their house. We need to pray for those older people who are grieving because they've lost loved ones. And we need to pray for our church leaders…[for] wisdom in how they can engage with bringing older Christians back into church where that might be tricky.”

The Global Report on Ageism is available here.

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