The Importance of Spirituality As We Age
Religion and spiritual practices are critical to the lives of many people, often helping to guide how they act and how they react to the changes and challenges of life. Spirituality can provide a sense of purpose and a moral code. It can create a goal for us to model our lives around and a North Star for all our decisions.
As we age, religion and spiritual wellness tend to become more of a focus for many of us. Perhaps it’s because we often feel more alone or because we are able to form a healthier respect for our own mortality, leading us to ponder why we’re here, what our purpose is, and how we can live our best life.
Religion Versus Spirituality
There are certainly similarities between religion and spirituality, but they are by no means the same thing. Religion (no matter which one you ascribe to) is based on a set of beliefs, practices and accepted norms. People who are religious often show their beliefs by attending public services at churches, mosques or synagogues. Religion is infused with certain rituals and teachings.
A person’s spiritual journey, on the other hand, is often more personal and private. A spiritual person may or may not believe in a higher power. They might not assemble or share widespread beliefs with others. Sometimes it helps to think of religion as a highly organized, very public practice, while spirituality is more of an internalized, personal set of beliefs.
Defining Spiritual Wellness for Seniors
Our journey to spiritual wellness as we age frequently involves a search for a growing number of answers to questions that get to the core of our very existence. This questioning is a normal part of the aging process. Examining our personal beliefs as we contemplate these questions helps us feel at peace with our place in the world, which in turn can lead to greater spiritual, mental and even physical wellness.
Some of these fundamental questions include:
- Why are we here?
- What is our purpose?
- What happens after we die?
- Can we transcend the material world?
- How should we live our lives?
- What matters most?
- Is each of us alone, or are we all connected?
Spiritual Needs of the Elderly
As seniors ponder these and other questions, it is common for them to begin to think and act in different ways. For example, some may:
- Become more focused on their inner lives
- Seek out more time for silence and solitude
- Censor their true thoughts and feelings less
- Find themselves feeling more patience and attentiveness
- Put a greater emphasis on creating more meaningful personal connections
- Live more in the moment
Benefits of Spiritual Wellness
There are a number of positive internal benefits of spirituality as we age, including:
- Improved social and family relationships
- Increased coping skills for life’s challenges
- Greater sense of community
- Less likelihood of becoming socially isolated
Spiritual practices also tend to provide a number of physical health benefits. One study by Merck, which summarized additional studies about religion, spirituality and the elderly, indicated that “There is growing evidence that religious or spiritual practices may be associated with better physical health and greater longevity as well as better mental health and greater social support.”Additional studies by the Mayo Clinic and the American Medical Association seem to indicate that spiritual people live longer and have less cardiovascular disease, lower blood pressure and fewer hospitalizations. Other health benefits of increased spiritual wellness:
- Fights stress
- Relieves symptoms of depression
- Strengthens social connections
Spiritual Activities for Seniors
The journey to spiritual wellness is as varied as we are as individuals. Many people simply spend some time practicing their breathing to help center their thoughts and calm their mind. Others practice gratitude or even wonder — seeing life through new eyes and being grateful for every experience and opportunity life affords them. Still others practice kindness or creativity. The end destination, no matter what journey you take to get there, is greater inner peace.
Finding Spiritual Wellness in Everyday Life
For seniors embarking on their own personal journeys to spiritual wellness, there are a number of activities they can undertake. At Freedom Pointe at The Villages, residents can connect with nature, express themselves through music and art, take time for reflection, and so much more. From organized Bible studies and personal meditative walks through The Villages® to wellness programs and volunteer opportunities, our community offers many avenues to explore and strengthen your religious and spiritual wellness as you age.