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Amy Wiles

What do you expect from a house of worship?

From the outside looking in, a religious community may seem like simply that — a specific, designated space to learn about and practice religious beliefs.

In reality, people seek out such places for many reasons. In addition to religious practice, community and education, some seek guidance and information on all areas of life.

“We find in church, people feel comfortable asking questions about themselves,” says the Rev. Pat Geadelmann of First Presbyterian Church in Waterloo. “For others, a church can provide a safe space or forum for people to talk about concerns they might have.”

The Rev. Amy Wiles of First Presbyterian agrees. She sees this in aging populations.

With changes in medicine, available care and health insurance, she and Geadelmann regularly talk with senior citizens and their families about health and wellness.

“We are often sitting with people in the middle of difficulty and times of transitions,” Wiles explains. “People do not know what to do, do not know the information, do not know how to get help.”

Information is readily accessible on the internet, but some seniors aren’t comfortable with computers, Geadelmann adds. Meanwhile, TV ads for health products can be confusing or sometimes even seem misleading to a population bombarded with a steady stream of offers.

“I think we’re concerned with the whole person — spiritual, physical, emotional, mental,” she says. “By addressing this in the church, we also are concerned with the whole person and those various components.”

First Presbyterian has developed a series of informational forums on aging and health care, open to anyone in the metro area without cost or need to register.

The impetus came last spring, when First Presbyterian’s deacons hosted a forum on Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

“There’s a lot of fear,” Wiles notes. “A way to relieve anxiety and fear is to help people live an abundant life, regardless of their age and health condition.”

Hosting sessions in a church assures attendees topics and presenters have been selected carefully, Wiles says.

“Experts are telling us there is going to be only a growing need,” she adds. “The largest generation is about to retire and is retiring. Information about aging and health care is not just a need now, either; it will be a need for all of us, eventually. It’s a human need.”

Sessions will consist of presentations, followed by time for questions and discussion, Geadelmann explains. Each takes place from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays in the church’s Calvin Hall.

Remaining sessions include:

“Home Care and Lifelong Links,” presented Tuesday by Kristi Shannon, Northeast Iowa Area Agency on Aging.

“Caregiving and Families,” presented Oct. 3 by Lisa Wetzel, regional coordinator, Northeast Iowa Area Agency on Aging.

“How Do I Pay for Care?” presented Oct. 10 by Hannah Thomas and Anne Marie Kofta, aging specialists, Northeast Iowa Area Agency on Aging.

“Transitioning to Facilities,” presented Oct. 17 by Dr. Elaine Eshbaugh, associate professor of gerontology, University of Northern Iowa

“Elder Abuse,” presented Oct. 24 by Shelby Bennett, elder rights specialist and social worker, Northeast Iowa Area Agency on Aging.

Golden writes The Courier’s weekly faith and values column. Email her at onfaith@karrisgolden.com.

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