Seniors attend their place of worship more regularly than any other age group, with about half of them attending weekly or more often. Besides family, a senior’s religious community is the largest source of social support, and “involvement in religious organizations is the most common type of voluntary social activity—more common than all other forms of voluntary social activity combined,” states Merck Manual.
This means places of worship are the perfect opportunity to get seniors to improve their social connections, as well as their physical and mental health. PsychHealing Counseling Center invites you to explore the following tips and advice.
Involvement in a place of worship cultivates the development of community and social support networks for seniors. Membership has a strong correlation to having greater life satisfaction and happiness. The friendships formed provide necessary connections that can enhance psychological and emotional wellness.
Seniors who attend feel a stronger connection with other members because of their shared faith. Attending services and other activities provides an opportunity for seniors to engage with people from all age groups. Furthermore, a place of worship is a strong support system, particularly if the senior is suffering from an illness or from the loss of a loved one. Places of worship also have resources available to help seniors in need of financial assistance, such as paying a power bill during a tough month. They may also bring an occasional warm meal or offer to complete home repairs.
Religion may help people maintain “a positive and hopeful attitude about life and illness, which predicts improved health outcomes and lower mortality rates,” says Merck Manual. It may also help provide a sense of meaning and purpose in life and a greater ability to cope with illness and disability. Maintaining a hopeful, positive attitude about the future helps those with illnesses or disabilities to stay motivated to recover.
Many seniors credit their religion as the most important coping mechanism in their lives in regards to physical health problems and life stresses, such as declining finances or the loss of a spouse. In fact, almost 90 percent of elderly patients claimed that they relied on religion when coping with health problems and other difficult situations.
Furthermore, people who use religious coping mechanisms when faced with life stressors are less likely to develop depression or addiction, and if they do fall into depression, they bounce back quicker and more easily than nonreligious people. This correlation is the strongest amongst people with a physical disability. Not only are those with a physical disability more likely to remain positive, but even their perception of their disability is changed by the level of their religious belief.
Being involved in a worship community is associated with higher physical activity. Perhaps it’s because traditional religion involves accountability and responsibility, two important factors in maintaining physical activity. Consistent physical activity is associated with mental and physical health benefits, and it doesn’t have to be strenuous for seniors to achieve the health benefits.
Moderate physical activity can help seniors improve their strength and stamina, as well as reduce the risk of falling and fracturing bones. These benefits increase the ability of a senior to live independently. Physical activity also helps prevent and fight heart disease, certain cancers, and diabetes. It can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, as well as improve an individual’s mood and feelings of well-being.
When getting ready for a service, a senior will move around their home while getting ready. Some may live within walking distance. If they drive or are given a ride, they will need to walk from the car to the pews. They may also walk around to engage with other members. During the service, they may stand during prayers and songs. Although these activities may not sound difficult, a senior can benefit from this moderate amount of activity, and they can go for a walk after the service to exercise even more.
Alternatively, they can meet up with fellow senior churchgoers to enjoy programs such as SilverSneakers, which is offered at no additional cost to older adults who have enrolled in certain Medicare Advantage programs. SilverSneakers offers access to thousands of fitness centers, recreation centers, and churches nationwide. If this isn’t an option, many fitness centers offer senior classes and enrollment packages.
Worship is a wonderful way for seniors to stay involved and connected with other people. They receive a wonderful support system. They can reap the benefits of attendance, both psychologically and physically, which lead to a more fulfilling and longer life.