A new ministry at Lilydale Baptist Church (LBC) aims to ease the burden of loneliness for the socially isolated living in aged care.
Peter Los, a pastor at LBC, has a big heart for the elderly, and this has prompted him to develop the Seniors’ Hope companionship ministry at Lilydale Aged Care (LAC) along with care provider Allity, and St John the Baptist Anglican Church.
The initiative follows a similar model to Kids’ Hope because each trained volunteer is partnered with one resident for a one-hour visit per week, with Allity staff identifying those who could benefit most from the program.
“This idea started for me when I was regularly visiting my own parents in nursing homes, and seeing so many people who didn’t have any visitors, who were feeling lonely,” Peter said. “I talked to the staff, and one lady said it’s a very lonely place for many people. While the staff are very aware of this, they are unable to sit and spend time with these people because they need to be working and keeping everyone fed and showered and so forth.
“So the thought grew that the church should be doing something to ease that sense of aloneness. The heart needs companionship, and that need is not being met. I believe God calls us to the marginalised – as the Bible says, “blessed are the poor in spirit”. I feel some of the most marginalised in our community are in nursing homes. Except for the nurse who cares for their physical needs and who is on a time limit, they’re not able to interact much at all socially.”
So far, around 20 people from the two churches have finished the application, training and vaccination requirements and are being introduced to a custom-matched resident at LAC.
Peter said the initiative was warmly welcomed by Allity directors and staff who “cared deeply” about the residents and were “very excited and open to the idea”. A team of volunteers used to visit LAC but this ended during Covid lockdowns.
Peter and the team are developing a manual on Senior’s Hope with the aim of sharing their training and knowledge with other interested churches, including the need for ongoing volunteer support and for a respectful, gentle approach.
“It’s only a model, it’s nothing really new, but I’m already getting feedback which is positive, and we’re on a learning curve.
“I really believe this ministry is on God’s heart. I look at the early church and one of the first things that happened was taking care of the widows at church – that’s something God has really impressed on me. This is another area where the marginalised need the church to be there, not making a big deal, just quietly walking alongside people.”