Most of us are keenly aware of the physical, mental and emotional benefits of aerobic activity, social interaction, and exercises that sharpen our cognitive abilities. But what about spirituality? Are there any physical or mental benefits of spiritual wellness for seniors? Indeed there are and in this blog post we’ll explore what spirituality looks like for seniors, the benefits it can provide, and how seniors can put it into practice.
What is Spiritual Wellness?
While not easy to define, spiritual wellness is about being connected to something greater than yourself and adhering to a set of values that guide your actions. Spiritual wellness can mean different things to different people. Some might experience a sense of peace and calm through meditation, while others find joy and purpose through religious expression. However you define it, spiritual wellness is an important part of life impacting our physical, mental and social well-being, especially as you get older.
The Benefits of Spiritual Wellness
Studying the effects of spirituality on our minds and bodies isn’t easy, but there are several studies indicating that spiritual practices can have a significant impact on our health and outlook on life. Here are a few of the benefits of spiritual wellness for seniors:
- Happiness: Highly religious people, defined as those who pray every day and attend religious services at least once a week, report being happier and more satisfied with family life. In fact, 40% of highly religious Americans said they were very happy with their lives versus 29% of those who are less religious.
- Longevity: While difficult to isolate completely, one study suggests that people who attend religious services tend to live longer than those who don’t. When researchers analyzed data from a 115,000-woman Nurses’ Health Study, they found that women who attended religious services more than once a week enjoyed a 33% lower risk of dying versus women who never attended religious services.
- Positive outlook: Spirituality and participation in religious activities may help ward off depression. This may be due, in part, to a thickening of areas of the brain cortex associated with regular meditation or other spiritual or religious practices. Researchers studied 130 subjects and found that those who highly valued spirituality displayed thicker brain cortex areas that may protect against depression — especially for people at high risk for the disease.
- Stronger relationships: Religion or spirituality has been shown to positively impact romantic/marital and parent/child relationships. Adolescents who accompanied religious services with one or both parents are more likely to feel greater well-being. And romantic partners who pray for their “significant others” experience greater relationship commitment, according to the research.
Now that we’ve taken a look at what spiritual wellness is and some of its benefits, let’s explore how seniors can practice spiritual wellness individually. Here are 10 spiritual exercises that can benefit older adults:
- Breathe: Focusing on breathing can bring greater awareness of your body. It can also aid in prayer and meditation.
- Give thanks: Recognizing even small things to be thankful for can help put you in a better mood.
- Wonder: Taking in the wonder of the world and the people around you can help bring calm and an acceptance of your place in life.
- Express yourself: Exploring new ways to express yourself and experience new things can usher in confidence and a sense of accomplishment.
- Be kind: Giving others the benefit of the doubt or making an extra effort to be kind can increase your compassion and empathy.
- Let go: Releasing others from unrealistic expectations and forgiving those who have wounded you can lift the emotional and physical load you’ve been carrying with you.
- Connect: Making new connections and being intentional about maintaining good relationships with family and old friends can bring relational joy to your life.
- Rest: Slowing down and taking intentional rest times in your day is a good way to rejuvenate yourself.
- Be who you are: Saying yes to the things that bring you joy and no to those that don’t keeps you true to yourself.
- Pray: Releasing burdens and making supplication for others helps you remember you’re not alone and helps calm your spirit from things that are troubling you.
Spiritual Wellness in a Senior Living Community
Most senior living communities provide many ways for seniors to experience spiritual wellness and join with other residents in expressing their spirituality. Here are some of the ways a healthy spiritual life is encouraged:
When it comes to nonprofit senior living communities, nearly 85% have some type of faith-based connection, whether that’s Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Buddhist or other religious affiliation. While these communities are open to people of all faiths, they are rooted in the values of their respective doctrines.
Many communities make provisions for religious services and support resident-run groups. Opportunities may include on-site services, transportation to local churches and synagogues, resident-run Bible study and prayer groups, guided meditation classes and counseling.
General spiritual opportunities
Many senior living communities also have quiet places to meditate, ways to interact with nature, opportunities to volunteer and serve others, classes and programs to feed your creativity, and avenues to foster social connections.
Contributing to society and helping others outside or within their community can be a significant source of spiritual enrichment for seniors. It can help boost independence and promotes positive feelings through helping others.
Spiritual Wellness at Claridge Court
Supporting spirituality is one of the many ways we work to help residents pursue physical, social, and spiritual wellness through individual plans to help you age successfully. Learn more about everything we have to offer by filling out the brief form at the bottom of this page to be contacted by one of our helpful sales counselors.