Researchers have shown that religious affiliation and worship attendance both increase with age. According to the research, religion becomes more meaningful and important as we age. This is significant because church can be utilized not only to help seniors stay connected with their faith, but to also help them stay connected with their community and other people, as well as increase their physical activity.
Connecting with their Communities
Seniors who attend church feel connected with others who share a similar faith. They have a chance to socialize with these people during church services and other church-related activities. The church community also offers a support system that can help seniors through tough times, such as an illness or the loss of a friend or spouse. Some churches will help seniors through a tough financial patch by donating funds or cooking meals for them. Other churches may provide home repairs, such as building a wheelchair ramp or fixing a leaky faucet.
One study found a positive association between religion and life satisfaction. Thanks to the sense of belonging they feel, those who regularly attend church have an improvement in mood. They also report that being a part of a religious community helps them form new friendships and remain socially active. As noted in the study, other nonreligious social networks exist, but churches are unique in their large scale and membership attendance, resulting in ample opportunities for seniors to engage with others.
Studies have demonstrated that individuals with higher levels of religious involvement have lower rates of abuse and addiction, and those who have struggled with addiction are more likely to find long-lasting success through religious involvement. The more a person is involved in religious activities, the less likely he or she is to smoke cigarettes or abuse alcohol. Likewise, as religious activities increase for recovering addicts, their rates of abuse decrease. Regardless of whether the religion prohibits the use of alcohol, there is still evidence that practicing religion can lead to avoidance or moderate use of alcohol. Similarly, religious practice tends to result in a reduction of substance abuse.
Greater religious involvement also results in increased happiness, life satisfaction, morale, and an overall sense of well-being. It’s also associated with having greater hope and a greater sense of purpose in life. Higher levels of attendance of religious services reduces stress levels, leads to increased self-esteem, and enhances coping skills. All of these life improvements help to protect against depression, a common issue with the senior population.
Being physically active provides many benefits, including increasing flexibility and strengthening the heart, lungs, and muscles. It also helps reduce depression and anxiety. Furthermore, being active makes everyday activities – such as climbing the stairs, shopping for groceries, and visiting with family and friends – easier to manage.
For most people, a brisk walk or yard work is enough to be considered moderate physical activity. While attending church may not seem like it would fit the bill, it can help seniors engage in moderate physical activity. For starters, attending a service or event requires the person to get up and get ready, which means they’ll be moving about. The individual will also walk from the car to the church and from the front steps to his or her seat. Once the service is over, seniors can go for a walk to get more exercise.
Churches typically offer group activities for seniors. Some groups meet monthly and involve activities that are enjoyable, such as mini golf, bowling, or dancing classes. Other groups can be more focused, such as a group that meets to cook and deliver meals to those in need. Not only do the groups offer a way for seniors to move about, but they also allow seniors to engage with church members outside of the church services, which provides more opportunities to have a conversation and connect.
Seniors benefit from church attendance in a variety of ways. They have a chance to socialize with people of all ages and feel a sense of purpose. They benefit both physically and psychologically from attending services, events, and activities offered through the church. All of these positive relations result in a happier and longer life.