By Jason Lewis | Guest Contributor
Seniors face a lot of challenges that bring on stress, depression, and anxiety. Worry about illness or finances and grief over lost loved ones can have a negative impact on both physical and mental health. Loneliness and isolation can even drive older people to risky behaviors that put them in danger. And some seniors are dealing with issues from their past, such as substance abuse, that put them at risk for many additional problems.
Physical Benefits of Church Attendance
There is one option that doesn’t cost a thing and can benefit seniors in many ways: going to church. It is even good for your physical health. Research shows that regular weekly church attendance can:
- Lower the risk of heart attack,
- Boost the immune system,
- Improve blood pressure
- May even add 2-3 years to life. This news came from a 20-year study done at Harvard that included data on more than 75,000 U.S. churchgoers between the ages of 46 and 71.
Improved physical health is just one of many ways that attending church can help seniors.
Better Mental Health And Socialization
Research suggests that church attendance can improve mental health and socialization. Here’s how:
- Churches often have a ministry dedicated to their seniors, providing support, activities, and more. This can help them come out of isolation and start building new friendships.
- In a church, seniors may have the opportunity to act as mentors, providing them renewed purpose.
- Many churches have support groups for grief, divorce, recovering addicts, and more.
- As seniors become involved in the charitable opportunities a church offers, it takes their focus off themselves. Studies show that altruistic volunteer efforts can reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and possibly even extend life.
- This article in the New York Times discusses how churchgoers are less likely to engage in risky behaviors. Instead, they encourage newcomers to join them in safe and healthy activities.
However, church attendance doesn’t just provide socialization activities. The prayer, mindfulness, and music of the weekly service can all help reduce stress. A recent study has even shown that singing in a church choir may reduce anxiety.
Church activities bring mindfulness. Prayer helps people focus their trust on a higher power, which can provide hope to get through a difficult time. Church worship itself is uplifting and joyful.
Embracing church doctrines of forgiveness and thankfulness allows seniors to move beyond the pain of having “a past.” It can be difficult to make ourselves focus on the here and now, especially if we’re going through a transition as life-changing as addiction recovery. But taking even a few minutes a day to be mindful of all we have in the present moment – and especially all we have to be grateful for – can help us feel more at peace with ourselves, our surroundings, and our circumstances.
Finding the Right Church
Seniors who do not currently attend church might feel a bit intimidated about finding one. Ask nearby friends and neighbors where they attend or do a local search on the internet. Be sure to find out if the church has a ministry for seniors. (Some churches may be new or small and geared towards youth instead.)
Take the time to visit different Sunday services. Attend on a day that is not a holiday such as Easter or Christmas as those are often crowded. How comfortable did you feel? Were you warmly welcomed or did you feel out of place? After service, many churches have helpers or church staff available to answer your questions. Take the opportunity to do your research to find the right fit for your soul.
In the age of COVID-19, finding the right church may depend on their ability to provide online worship services. The problem, of course, is that this will require a smartphone, tablet, or computer to utilize (not to mention a fast and reliable internet connection), the purchase of which can put a strain on a senior’s budget. Thankfully, many computer companies like Lenovo have released lines of budget-friendly laptops that provide power and affordability.
Regular church attendance has many benefits for seniors including improving health, reducing stress, socialization opportunities, and possibly even extending life. Try it to see if it helps.
Here’s to better health and well-being!
Jason Lewis is a personal trainer who specializes in helping senior citizens stay fit and healthy. He is also the primary caretaker of his mom after her surgery. He writes for Strong Well and enjoys creating fitness programs that cater to the needs of people over 65
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