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Many seniors may stop attending religious services after they move to an assisted living community, whether it's because their new home isn't near a church or they're content to practice on their own. As a religious professional, you may have the opportunity to visit with these seniors and convince them to rejoin the spiritual community. While the most obvious reason for individuals to attend church is to practice their faith, there are also a number of other benefits that seniors can experience from being part of a religious community.
1. Improved mood and outlook
A number of studies have shown individuals that actively practice their religion experience physiological benefits. The Merck Manuals explained that religion has been linked to a more positive and hopeful attitude about life and illness. Sometimes seniors become isolated when they move into a retirement community, and this may have a negative impact on their moods. Attending church can not only get them out of their residence and into the community, but it can also help them see all the good in the world and give their life a deeper meaning. This type of positive mentality has even been linked to improved health outcomes and higher mortality rates, according to the Merck Manuals.
2. Positive lifestyle changes
Religious communities can also be instrumental in promoting healthy lifestyle changes among their members. Seniors who are struggling to exercise more or quit a bad habit may find the support they need when they attend a church. In an article for The New York Times, T.M. Luhrmann, a professor of anthropology at Stanford, explained that religious communities are a great source of social support. In her studies, she found that members of churches often looked out for one another through hard times. Luhrmann also noted that this type of support system is often directly tied to better health.
3. Sense of community
As indicated by religious support systems, churches often foster satisfying social networks among seniors. A few years ago, researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that religious people were often happier with their lives thanks to the sense of belonging they got from their church community.
"[Churchgoers] share a certain social identity, a sense of belonging to a moral faith community," Chaeyoon Lim, one of the researchers at the university, told LiveScience. "The sense of belonging seems to be the key to the relationship between church attendance and life satisfaction."
The study, published in the journal American Sociological Review, showed that 28 percent of individuals who attended a religious ceremony every week were "extremely satisfied" with their lives, as opposed to the less than 20 percent of people who did not attend services. In addition to the benefit of elevated mood, seniors may also find that a religious community helps them make new friends and stay social after they move to a senior living community.
4. Charitable opportunities
Being an active part of a church may also help expose seniors to more volunteer opportunities. Many times, adults want to find ways to give back to the community once they retire, but aren't sure where to start. Seniors who are part of a religious organization will be exposed to a number of charitable opportunities that will often coincide with their interests and abilities. Older adults may find that lending a helping hand to the less fortunate gives them a newfound purpose in their retirement and helps them make new friends.