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  • Writer's pictureDebbie Thrower

The Gift of Age project

Updated: Feb 23, 2023

The contribution of older people to the life of our faith communities

The final report of this major Faith in Older People project has been published and is available on their website (The-gift-of-age.pdf (

We are developing a dissemination strategy as we feel it is vital that this unique exercise in Scotland should be widely discussed and ideas shared. This is a unique project in Scotland, and we hope it will highlight the immense contribution made by faith communities to society and that it will influence perceptions of faith in action in relation to policies at all levels and the contribution of older people to volunteer activity.

Extract from executive summary – The Gift of Age:

The role and contribution of faith communities to their local neighbourhoods can be understood through the presence of four key dimensions.

Inclusion: the faith community as a place where all are welcomed and valued, irrespective of belief, political standpoint, or age. This is especially important in the context of local, often febrile, community politics.

Trust: faith communities as trusted community assets that are rooted in practical community action.

Longevity: the simple fact that faith communities are in it ‘for the long run’ means that solid relationships can be built, initiatives begun and developed at the pace of people, and a commitment made to the long-term development of communities over generations rather than funding periods.

Hope: the net result of being inclusive, trusted, and present is that faith communities can offer hope to individuals and groups in local communities.

This contribution from faith communities to the lifeblood of local neighbourhoods is often largely unheralded. It is only recognised in small measure, with attention more usually focused on internal politics or ecclesiastical scandal. The profile of faith communities in the public sphere is limited. When asked why this is (… and shouldn’t they make more use of Twitter and Facebook?), faith communities will often respond ‘It’s what we do’, ‘Our lives are messy’.

A striking (but sometimes overlooked) feature of what faith communities bring to a neighbourhood is the practice of hospitality. This infuses most of their work and expresses itself not least through the informal sharing of food. It was striking to read the number of community initiatives where this was the case.

(Faith in Older People is very grateful to the TOR Foundation for funding this project which was undertaken by FiOP in collaboration with Simon Jaquet Associates).


Meanwhile, Faith in Older People’s March Newsletter will be in collaboration with the Scottish Partnership on Palliative Care and Good Life; Good Death; Good Grief. ‘We will be focussing on end-of-life matters and bereavement in particular. We will hear about the UK Bereavement Commission and Report; advance planning and a range of resources and training available.’

Faith in Older People is planning an EASE course (End of Life Skills for Everyone) in the early summer. This takes place over four half-days online and has excellent resources behind it. If you are interested please let Maureen O’Neill know on email:

Another event you may be interested in:

THURSDAY 9 MARCH 2023, 4.30 – 6.00pm


Richard Meade, Director, Carers Scotland will present this seminar and discuss the impact of the caring responsibilities of unpaid carers and their well-being; in particular, in relation to spiritual, emotional and physical well-being including financial consequences and social isolation.

Family, friends, neighbours and those who provide care to others face huge emotional, spiritual and physical challenges in their caring role. The burden of caring can often exceed their capacity to cope, which negatively affects their psychosocial and physical health, morbidity, social life and quality of life.

Spiritual care has been shown to play a very important role in supporting carers, particularly when the person they are caring for is terminally ill and approaching the end of life. A good spiritual well-being can reduce levels of burden and stress for carers as well as increase levels of happiness, but not every carer is able to get the support they need.

Carers need a range of support including health and social care services, communities and faith groups as well as their families and personal networks in order to continue to provide the care that they do. This presentation will explore the importance of spirituality and caring, what it means and how we can do more to support carers to improve their spiritual well-being.



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