Guest Article by Patrick Young

Finding Calmness and Health in Prayer:
Church Attendance Benefits for Seniors

For many seniors, retirement and distance from children and other relatives can create a sense of isolation and disconnectedness. Such loneliness has detrimental effects on emotional and physical well-being. At a time when health can naturally wane as a part of aging, it’s important for seniors to seek ways to connect with others and their community. Real Voices explains that one popular method of beating isolation is through regular church attendance and involvement.

Emotional and physical perils affecting seniors

Isolation and loneliness can cause great strife for older adults, according to the National Institute on Aging. Maybe children grew up and moved away, or friends are less active due to aging, but, all too often, seniors find themselves alone and purposeless. When a senior shuts the door on other people and experiences, they let in loneliness and health risks.

Due to life circumstances that may be unique to their age or health concerns, seniors often confront a variety of emotions or mindsets that may be somewhat debilitating and hard to bear. These include a sense of isolation, loneliness, boredom, and grief, as well as others. Finding an uplifting, communal and purposeful activity is crucial to battling isolation.

The connection between faith and wellness

Spirituality is connected to emotional well-being that can defeat loneliness and have a lasting, positive effect on a senior’s whole life. This effect is cumulative and can build upon itself. For example, the sense of purpose that church attendance provides can also help someone muster the strength to fight illness, and the social aspects of church can lead to increased physical activity. Mayo Clinic points out that the stress management benefits of spirituality include:

  • Gaining a sense of connectedness to the world. Loneliness is destructive because it shadows the world around you. When a senior can see that they too have a vital role in their world, and it provides a connection.
  • Releasing control. A spiritual person can release some of their burdens in their faith when much of the world is beyond their control. The idea of giving in to God’s will can have a profound stress-reducing effect.
  • Developing an expanded support network. Membership in a community like your local church can increase one’s number of friends. Churchgoers, especially those active in leadership and volunteering, tend to be compassionate and open-armed. Adding such people to one’s life increases their support during times of need.
  • Leading a healthier life. Church members reported higher levels of activity, from simple walking to more involved exercise. New friendships lead to opportunities for group exercise through popular programs and non-church related activities, such as going to the gym together or sharing healthy recipes.

Church can increase happiness

Studies show that the more often you attend church, the happier you perceive your life to be. Much of the benefits of church attendance seem to flourish when parishioners become engaged and active in their church. For this reason, many health professionals believe the communal and community service aspects of church membership drive the health benefits.

When you become an active member of a church and start to center at least some of your life around this community, less time is spent alone or doing less healthy activities. Sitting on a couch all day watching TV does little for health, but gathering with other church congregants for worship or bible study provides mental and emotional stimulation.

Involvement in a church community can even reduce the risk of suicide in seniors. The support mechanisms inherent in active church communities counter despair and loneliness, and the renewed sense of purpose can overcome the down feelings that fester during isolation. The emotional benefits are also more than side-effects of church membership. Increasingly, many churches have adopted recognition of the emotional and mental health concerns of its communities and members. Programs are available that directly speak to worries from substance abuse to stress-relief to bereavement.

Many people consider senior life as a way station before the end, but it is so much more than a winding down of one’s life. With church attendance, seniors can revitalize themselves, and engage in positive, community-focused activities that can provide enrichment for years.

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