Korean Catholicism hears often the word 'young senior'. We are a rapidly aging society, and the church is aging even faster. Young seniors are those between 55 and 69, and number 21% of the Catholics. Those over 65 in the general population are 12.7 % while those in the church are 16.4 %, and this will continue to increase in the future.
We are not far from a super-aged church. At present, one out of five is a young senior but our pastoral practices have changed little. Many parishes continue with the one day a week school for the elderly, with recreation, trips, developing hobbies, and some parishes would have Scripture study.
Those in their early seventies have shown an interest in the school for the elderly but not the young seniors. There is a need for the church to become interested in this large segment of parish life. There have been efforts in different dioceses with programs for this age group but many feel there is a need for more interest and efforts to determine what this group of seniors wants and needs.
The Peace Weekly had an article on this age group and the efforts being made to answer their needs. At present, we have 11.3 % under 19 years of age, 20-40, 46.2 %, 50-64, 26.1 % and those over 65, 16.4%. When the percentage of those over 65 exceed 7 %, it is called an aging society. When over 14 % it is an aged society and when over 20 %, it is a super aged society. The church will shortly reach the super aged level.
Young seniors are independent, looking for ways to grow, and ways to use their free time in a constructive way. They are different from the traditional older generations of the past for they want to live separate from the children and live as a couple. In 1985, there were 188,615 couples living alone, and in 2015 this has increased to 3,010,000 couples.
The Seoul Diocese from 2007 has had an academy for the young seniors, a two-year course with courses in social issues, culture, religion, church history, religious art, and the like, with specialist in their field giving the lectures. There were also group activities in literature, art, photography, drama and music.
During an eight-year period, over 500 have finished the courses. Those who have taken the programs have all finished high school. There are many who would like to see more creativity in finding ways for the young seniors to use their time. Many of the elderly have talents and experience they can use to help others. This is an area in which much can be done; programs that will give vitality to the elderly can use the elderly as resource persons to make the programs varied and profitable for the recipients and the teachers.