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Apr 2, 2018

Spirituality and Seniors: How Church Helps Seniors Live a Longer and Happier Life

Jason Lewis

Remember when you were a kid and you hated going to church on Sunday? You would have rather stayed at home with a big bowl of breakfast cereal and the television, but your parents made you go anyway. As it turns out, instilling that habit in you wasn’t just good for your soul … it’s also good for your health.

According to a study published by the American Medical Association, people “who attend church services more often actually have a better chance of staying alive in the long run.” The study observed a group of over 76,000 women over a span of twenty years. These women worked as nurses, and many of them were Catholic or Protestant. At the end of the survey period, over 13,000 of these women had died. Researchers then noticed that the women who went to church services were thirty-three percent less likely to be in the group of those deceased when compared to those who never attended services. Furthermore, researchers found that the positive effect diminished as the study participants decreased their church attendance.

So, what is it about church that helps a person live longer?

Seniors and Loneliness

When you feel alone and blue, it’s not uncommon to experience your loneliness physically as well as mentally and emotionally. Humans are social animals, and we need to feel like we belong. Our primal need for companionship is so strong, our bodies negatively react to isolation. In fact, research finds that people who are chronically lonely end up with a greater chance for serious health issues including heart disease, metastatic cancer, stroke, and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.

Seniors, more than anybody, experience loneliness. According to research conducted at the University of California at San Francisco, more than forty percent of seniors experience regular loneliness. Attending regular religious services provides seniors with a supportive community to which they can belong. Not only does going to church surround you with people who have similar values, but most churches also provide activities and amenities especially suited for senior citizens.

Church Promotes Healthy Habits

Beyond the social aspect, attending religious services encourages us to live wholesome lifestyles built around the structure provided by good habits. The Bible provides us with guidelines for a long and healthy life:

  • 1 Corinthians 6:19-20: Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
  • Ephesians 5:18: And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit
  • Exodus 15:26: If you will diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord your God, and do that which is right in his eyes, and give heed to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will put none of the diseases upon you which I put upon the Egyptians; for I am the Lord, your healer.

When we follow the instructions provided by Scripture, we live healthier and longer lives because its instruction tells us to. All in all, church teaches us to live modestly and to honor our bodies, as they are God’s creation.

Helping Seniors Get to Church

One of the biggest obstacles that keep seniors from regularly attending church is transportation. As we age, our reflexes slow. Because of this, it is not safe for many older people to drive themselves. This lack of mobility and personal autonomy can be very frustrating for seniors.

There are many transportation options for seniors who cannot drive: public transportation, rideshare services, and taxicabs are just a few. However, as members of the same congregation, we can all do our part in helping seniors join us throughout the week. Many of us chose to help seniors as a form of almsgiving during Lent this year. I encourage you to take this attitude of service beyond March and volunteer to help seniors in your congregation by providing rides for them throughout the year.

Church is as good for the body as it is for the soul. Not only does spending time in your congregation prevent loneliness, but the lessons we learn encourage us to take care of our bodies in a way that honors God. This can help senior citizens live longer and happier lives. If you would like to help seniors in your congregation, talk to your church elders about volunteering to drive older members to services each week.

Photo by Nick Cooper on Unsplash.


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