Happy third birthday to The Gift of Years!

Dedicated to improving the spiritual lives of older people

It’s been three years since we launched The Gift of Years, dedicated to improving the spiritual lives of older people across the UK. At its heart is Anna Chaplaincy, a community-based ministry delivering spiritual care.

Could you give regularly to support us?

Debbie Thrower was the UK’s first Anna Chaplain. Her role came about because of a willingness among Christians in Hampshire, to do more for older people. There are now 41 Anna Chaplains, and others in equivalent roles, working with an astounding 4,700 older people.

Debbie still works as an Anna Chaplain one day a week, but much of her time is now spent growing and supporting The Gift of Years network. She and Alex, the Gift of Years coordinator, do a huge amount of work promoting the programme, running training events and developing publications. Their latest project is The Gift of Years handbook, a comprehensive how-to guide on the spiritual care of older people.

Debbie Thrower

Despite its size and growth, BRF’s The Gift of Years is supported by just a small number of regular donors who together give around £3,000 each year. Overall we need to raise around £100,000 a year to keep The Gift of Years going.

One of our key priorities is to achieve greater financial sustainability. Regular giving helps us to plan well for our work, as well as to weather times that are less favourable. Could you help by becoming a regular donor? Setting up a direct debit online is straightforward and the most cost-efficient way to give to BRF.

Give regularly to The Gift of Years

Key themes of our work

Over the last three years Debbie and Alex have learned that the spiritual needs of older people are varied and complex, but three common themes emerge time and again.

The importance of self-worth

A life well lived is a crowning achievement, and ageing is often part of that journey. If we could be persuaded to see life more as a gift and less as a life sentence, we might be better placed to embrace whatever comes our way.

The Gift of Years believes our later years can be our more spiritually fertile ones, and infinitely more fulfilling. We recently launched The Gift of Years Bible Reflections for Older People to encourage spiritual growth. This regular series of notes helps older people to see themselves through God’s eyes, as sons and daughters of the King of Kings. It’s just one example of the ways in which we are fostering a sense of self-worth in later life.

The Gift of Years Bible reflections for older people

Tackling loneliness

Older woman

Over one million older people in the UK say they often or always feel lonely. Loneliness is harmful to our health. People with a high degree of loneliness are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s, according to Age UK. We are all too aware of the negative effects of loneliness. That’s why an Anna Chaplain is first and foremost someone who spends time with, and listens to, older people.

The Gift of Years recently teamed up with four other Christian charities to coordinate a faith response to the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness. Anna Chaplains are catalysts for good ideas and help tackle loneliness in many ways, so we have plenty of ideas to share. For example, some run CAMEO (Come and Meet Each Other) clubs with activities and speakers to keep people stimulated and connected.

Supporting those with dementia

Dementia can have a profoundly negative effect on people’s lives. Individuals often experience memory loss, difficulties with language and problem-solving, and changes in mood and behaviour.

The Gift of Years recognises the need to communicate with dementia sufferers in a different way. In Alton, Anna Chaplains use sunshine pom-pom balls as spiritual reminders of God’s love, as well as a knitted ‘Angel Everlasting’ as a sign of God’s loving commitment to each of us. These simple items often provoke a reaction, such as bringing a smile on the face of someone who has lost the ability to speak.

Old hands

Other ways to help

Pray for wise decision-making and God’s provision

There are lots of opportunities for us to develop what we offer. Please join us in praying for wisdom in making the most of those opportunities and for God’s provision for this work.

Thank you.

Image acknowledgements

Older woman © Jonathan Cherry / inverted and cropped; Hands  © Timothy K Hamilton licensed under CC 2.0