Alpha Plus I had arrived at an answer to the most important issue we humans ever deal with, is there a God. And I had arrived there without ever really looking at the evidence. And I was supposed to be a scientist. Francis Collins MD PHD, Director of the Human Genome Project 29 million people in 169 countries have tried Alpha, so we are confident that Alpha is for people from any context or demographic. We encourage hosts to consider the information contained in this addendum alongside the Alpha Team Guide, which contains many suggestions for running Alpha successfully. We recognise that in the 55+ demographic there are people from many different backgrounds, with a variety of worldviews. Some are still very active and healthy, and some now need assistance with daily life and may be cared for privately or in Aged Care facilities. Alpha small group hosts and helpers need to be sensitive to the particular needs of people in their group as they facilitate the discussion.
Why run Alpha for those 55+? Alpha helps reconfirm faith for those who are Christians and gives them confidence to invite those they know who don’t have a faith. For those in the second half of life, different things may now be important to them. People will look at the gospel with different eyes. Those who went to church in their youth may have heard a ‘fire and brimstone’ message; whereas Alpha invites anyone to ‘come and see’, to ask any question, to say what they think and challenge everything. We want them to know that their point of view is as important as anyone else’s. A number of older people may have cooled or walked away from an active faith for many reasons. These include work pressure, family pressure, financial, moral reasons, sport, church failure, sexual abuse, boredom or perceived irrelevance. There is a long list of often shared shortcomings, but a focused Alpha Plus group creates an opportunity to re-engage people at a more reflective life age. You will be giving people the opportunity to examine the evidence about Christianity, find a relationship with Jesus or reaffirm their faith. Many tend to view ‘seniors’ as all the same but they are not a homogenous group. If you enjoyed rock music you probably still do. If you preferred classical music you probably still do. If you enjoy sport, or craft, or travel, or literature you probably still do in whatever way you can. So it is important to know your community and plan your Alpha for the people you are inviting.
Needs of older adults What has my life meant? What will I do with the rest of my life? Some of the more easily identified needs include: • The opportunity to discuss spiritual issues such as: Will God really forgive the bad things I have said and done? Is there really a Heaven? Why am I here and what is my legacy? How will I be remembered? • The need to be heard. • The need to be cared for in a loving way and in return express their love. • Companionship developed through community. • The opportunity to discuss and share their fears of dying, incapacitation, pain, and separation from family or communities (church/neighbours/local clubs etc.). • Freedom from bondage to unforgiveness and experiencing the peace of release. Remember that as people head into the second half of life many reassess their work, finances, and future direction as their children may have grown up and become independent. However grandchildren also rekindle a sense of responsibility as they support their new extended family in a world with changed standards in marriage, sexuality, finances, spirituality etc. Many also perceive that they live in a much more dangerous world. Consideration needs to be given to the group make up as to who has an active faith, who is a nominal Christian, and who has no faith at all. Those who have an active faith could possibly be or become Alpha hosts and helpers.
Practical Considerations For Active Older Adults • Be flexible in how you run the sessions. You can make adjustments as you learn what works. • The meal is a key element of Alpha; it is where relationships start being built. Many older adults live alone and will enjoy having a meal with others; especially one they didn’t need to prepare themselves. • Don’t assume that because they are old they are not open to new ideas. • Finances: Some may need sponsorship to go away for a weekend. Consider a day away to help keep costs down, or someone might offer a holiday house for use for a smaller group. • Health and wellbeing: Inclusion considerations Hearing: Consider the room that you are using and how easy it is to hear when there could be several conversations taking place at the same time. Visual: The Guest notes can be downloaded from our website. Some people may need these to be in larger print. This could be achieved by photocopying to a larger size. Attention spans: Using the Alpha Youth Film Series may suit some groups where people have shorter attention spans. These talks are segmented so that you watch a talk and then discuss one question, before moving on to another talk. This would also give opportunity for extra bathroom breaks if required. • Timing: Many older adults may prefer to attend Alpha during the day as they have the time and sometimes prefer not to drive at night.
Alpha In Aged Care Facilities • Relationship building: Even in this environment having a space where friendships can be built is valuable. It is still important to build relationships and to encourage the residents who attend church services to invite others. They may want to attend Alpha first to experience it for themselves. This will give them confidence to invite others to come to Alpha with them. • Timing: Daytime courses are best in this context. Does the staff run a happy hour? Some Alpha coordinators have found that running Alpha after happy hour works well. Others have run it at morning teatime. • Attention Spans Consider that residents may have a shorter attention span, so the shorter, segmented Alpha Youth Film Series talks may work well. • Prayer and the Weekend Sessions Instead of a weekend away you may like to run the Holy Spirit sessions over an extended session. Note the Alpha Youth Film Series combines the talks “Who is the Holy Spirit?” and “What Does the Holy Spirit Do?” into one 21 minute video. Some may find prayer ministry threatening, but most will be receptive to prayer. Consider how you do this sensitively. The ministry of aged care chaplains involves journeying through the shadow of death with residents. One commented, “I have never found anyone who on their deathbed regretted putting their faith in Christ.”
Training Do you want to get the most out of your Alpha Plus? If you’ve run Alpha before or are looking to run Alpha Plus for the first time, you’re invited to join us for a FREE, fun, interactive session where we’ll share some creative ideas about: • • • • • •
What is Alpha Plus? Running Alpha for those 55+ How to effectively plan & run your Alpha Why Alpha is different to any other small group How to get the best out of hosting Alpha small groups Prayer and the Weekend/Day Away
We have a variety of events depending on the needs of your team, ranging from two hours to a weekend intensive. It’s FREE to attend but please register so we know how many people to cater for. Check alpha.org.au/events to find an Alpha Plus event near you or contact our team if you would like to host one. To find out more go to www.alpha.org.au/plus
Contact If you have any questions contact: 1800 811 903 email@example.com
alpha.org.au 1800 811 903