Historical Note/Scope and Content


The National Interfaith Conference on Aging was created by the Joint Planning Committee of the Christian College of Georgia and Athens Community Council on Aging. Its immediate goal was to organize ecumenical religious sector involvement in the 1971 White House Conference on Aging (WHCOA). Initially a pre-WHCOA meeting of denominational leaders was planned, but time constraints led instead to a post-conference gathering to discuss implementation of White House recommendations. At this meeting, held in Athens, Georgia, March 8-10, 1972, delegates voted to form a coalition that would promote spiritual values in WHCOA activities, identify and improve church programs for the elderly, develop the awareness of religious organizations to their responsibilities in improving the quality of life for the aging, stimulate cooperation between the religious, public and private sectors, and encourage the aging to give from their experience and to remain active in the community life. Dr. Roger N. Carstensen, president of the Christian College of Georgia and Rev. Donald F. Clingan of the Division of Social and Health Services of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) chaired the meeting.

A Steering Committee, which became the Board of Directors in 1973, consisted of delegates from eighteen denominations, including Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish bodies. Membership was at first open only to national religious organizations, but later was expanded to include secular groups concerned with the aging, regional organizations, and eventually interested individuals. "Conference" in NICA's name was changed to "Coalition" by the vote of the Steering Committee in August 1972. NICA was incorporated in 1973 in Washington, with its Secretariat, the administrative office, located in Athens, Georgia. Rev. Donald F. Clingan was appointed part-time Executive Director, working out of his office in Indianapolis.

The first major project, which was to consume much of NICA's time from 1973-1976, was the Survey of Programs for the Aging Under Religious Auspices. This was designed to provide denominational and national overviews of the nature, strengths, and weaknesses of a wide range of services for the elderly. Rev. Thomas C. Cook, who had been working for the Athens Community Council on Aging was hired in 1973 as Project Director and Principal Investigator. In January of 1976 he also assumed the duties of Executive Director.

After completion of the Survey Project, and partly as a response to needs perceived through the survey, Project-GIST (Gerontology in Seminary Training) was initiated. Its goal was to enhance the ability of the religious community to serve the needs of the aging by improving the skills and knowledge of seminary educators. Participants attended workshops, compiled guidelines, and shared individual projects.

Another focus of the organization was its continued involvement with the White House Conference on Aging, particularly on the subject of spiritual well-being. In addition to sponsoring the National Intra-decade Conference on the Spiritual Well-being of the Elderly, held in 1977, NICA was chosen to conduct an official mini-conference of the 1981 WHCOA, the National Symposium on Spiritual & Ethical Values System Concerns, held in Erlanger, Kentucky, in 1980.

Annual assemblies brought together delegates and observer-participants for meetings, workshops, and presentations. The newsletter NICA INFORM (1975-1990) provided members with information about NICA's activities, developments in the field of aging, and reviews of current literature. By publishing reports, proceedings, tapes and papers, as well as making available resources from other organizations and institutions, NICA served as a clearinghouse for information about services for the elderly.

In 1982 cutbacks in federal funds led to financial retrenchment. Secretariat hours and services were reduced. Rev. Cook resigned as Executive Director, although he continued to serve as a consultant. Ms. Miriam Peifer assumed some administrative duties as Associate Executive Director. Until 1988, when Dr. Thomas Robb was appointed part-time Executive Director, the position remained vacant. NICA dissolved as a corporation at the end of 1990 and reorganized as a constituent unit of the National Council on the Aging. It affiliated with the American Society on Aging in 2010, as a subcommittee of the Forum on Religion, Spirituality, and Aging.


Scope and Content

Series 1, Governance Files, 1972-2009, contains minutes, reports, and related correspondence of the various policy-making bodies, arranged in chronological order.

Series 2, Subject Files, 1971-2008, documents the general administration of NICA and its activities, including its relationship with governmental and other religious agencies. Of note is a handwritten letter from the actor Lew Ayres. The series is arranged alphabetically by topic or type of document.

Series 3, Project Files, 1973-1994, contains the files of the Survey of Programs for the Aging Under Religious Auspices (1), Project-GIST (2), and the National Clergy Leadership Project to Prepare for an Aging Society (3). There is extensive information about the coalition's dealings with Pro Plan International, a consulting firm founded by John P. Nichols, which NICA hired to help with grant-writing, and later with the design and implementation of the survey.

Series 4, Publications, 1973-2009, consists of newsletters, proceedings, and other publications issued by the conference. It is arranged chronologically by title.

Series 5, Annual Meetings, Conferences and Symposia, 1971-2010, contains correspondence, papers, programs, and reports documenting these gatherings sponsored or co-sponsored by NICA, including the National Intra-decade Conference on the Spiritual Well-being of the Elderly and the National Symposium on Spiritual and Ethical Values System Concerns in the 1981 White House Conference on Aging. The material is arranged chronologically.

Series 6, Audio Recordings, 1972-2000, contains audiocassette recordings of NICA meetings and programs, including Lew Ayres' talk at the 1982 annual meeting. Also of note is a recording of a telephone conversation, ca. May 1979, between Rev. Thomas C. Cook and Ed Sylvester of the Los Angeles Times concerning John P. Nichols. The series is arranged chronologically.