For older adults, loneliness, isolation, poor mental health and declining physical health are all too real. This is a sad reality that much of our aging population is faced with today, but with community support, especially from church, seniors can to improve their health and reverse this trend. Attending church is actually one of the best ways of fighting these problems and improving the health of seniors.
Church Provides Community and Social Support
Loneliness is one of the greatest problems that older adults face, and living in isolation can lead to depression and poor physical health. When older adults attend church, they can rebuild a social network that they may have lost over the years. The social benefit of attending church does more than give seniors a chance to get out of the house and see friends a couple of times a week. According to Health Fitness Revolution, connecting with others through church and praying together creates a strong sense of community. Being a part of this community gives you a support system of people you can depend on.
Church Provides Services for Physical Health
Many churches offer activities for senior citizens that help care for their physical well-being, such as exercise classes and periodic health checks. They may have a supper club or weekly luncheon for senior church members, which is especially beneficial for older adults who live alone and may struggle to maintain good nutrition. Some older adults who aren’t active may not get out of the house often, but going to church gives them a reason to get up and get moving.
Spiritual Faith Builds Hope
We often focus spiritual outreach efforts toward younger people who haven’t discovered faith, but maintaining and strengthening spiritual belief is essential for older adults to thrive. When older adults attend church services regularly, they continue to grow in their spiritual journey and this faith helps them cope with stresses they face as they age. The sense of hope that comes from faith helps fight the tendency for older adults to experience depression.
Church Activities Enrich Lives
Older adults who are retired and have finished raising a family often feel like they no longer have a purpose in life. Whether it’s recreation, fellowship or service activities, being involved gives seniors a renewed feeling of worth. Seniors and younger people alike benefit from intergenerational opportunities they get through church, as each generation can love, support, and learn from one another.
Due to life circumstances that may be unique to their age or health concerns, elderly people often confront a variety of emotions that may be somewhat debilitating and hard to bear. These include a sense of isolation, loneliness, boredom, and grief, as well as others. Engaging in church activities is not just spiritually fulfilling, but it also helps combat these negative health concerns and emotions. Fighting these often debilitating conditions is a serious health concern.
Older adults who experience isolation and depression often take poor care of their health and are more likely to engage in risky behaviors such as substance abuse as a way to self-medicate when they feel overwhelmed.
Attending Church Has Been Linked to Better Health and Greater Longevity
According to CNN, in a study of church attendance and longevity, those who attended church regularly had a lower risk of death during the study period. The combined effects of community support, healthy activities and a greater motivation to take care of their physical health are likely all related to churchgoers experiencing, on average, less serious disease in old age.
Other studies have shown that older adults who attend church have fewer cognitive disorders as they age, and those who do experience a slower decline in cognitive function.
The great news for older adults is that attending church is one solution that helps with many different problems. The relationship between faith, mental health and physical health is complex with each strengthening the others. If you know an older adult who may be struggling, help give them that connection by inviting them to attend church with you.
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