The Importance of Spirituality for Seniors
For seniors, spirituality and spiritual wellness often take on greater meaning and importance. Older adults participate in spiritual activities at a higher level than any other age group. For them, aging well and spiritual wellness go hand in hand. That’s why many choose to live in a community that prioritizes spiritual health and supports the spiritual journey — a senior living community like Mary’s Woods where one can find diverse opportunities to explore and develop the inner self and sense of purpose.
Spirituality as a coping mechanism
Senior spirituality is tested in the face of new health concerns, progressively limited mobility, the loss of friends or a spouse — not to mention the many other unknowns of aging. To strengthen spiritual wellness, we should try to revisit our core values and keep them in our daily life. Connecting to deeper meaning in this way will help nurture spiritual health. For many, the expanded social setting of a senior living community can provide new and varied opportunities to develop fresh, effective spiritual connections.
What is spiritual wellness?
In a broad sense, man’s deepest desire is to search for meaning and purpose. For all people, but especially for seniors feeling a growing sense of loss as life progresses, possessing a certain attitude can make a profound difference in their inner peace and spiritual wellness. This attitude translates to the realization that we alone control our ability to choose our attitude and response in any given set of circumstances.
Spiritual wellness involves looking beyond ourselves to find purpose and meaning in life. Many find their route to spirituality through religion, others through meditation, a connection to nature, or a strict code of ethics and altruism. Spirituality can refer to feelings, thoughts, experiences and behaviors related to the soul or to a search for the sacred. For older people, the religious community is the largest source of social support outside the family, and involvement in religious organizations is the most common type of voluntary social activity. Spirituality has fewer requirements, and people may reject traditional religious dogma but still consider themselves spiritual. Spiritual wellness means finding and cultivating emotional tools to redefine what gives life meaning after you’ve retired, the kids are grown, and your day-to-day activities are very different from what they used to be.
How to cultivate spiritual wellness
The journey to spiritual wellness can take different paths for different people, but the mile markers along the way can have a common theme. Try to concentrate on tasks that bring fulfillment, increase joy and peace, and grow your spiritual life.
Meditation can be helpful in attaining lower blood cortisol levels, diminished anxiety, a lower heart rate and deeper relaxation. It may also increase spiritual awareness and sense of peace. The form of meditation could involve guidance from a personal instructor or it could simply mean practicing deep breathing and relaxation on your own. Repeating a mantra to help focus and feel the loving kindness around you is sure to have a calming effect.
Being social. People with rich relationships report lower levels of depression, stronger immune systems and improved cognition. If you can’t be with friends or loved ones in person, pick up the phone, make a video call using Skype or FaceTime, send an email, text or instant message. You might even write a letter. Spiritual wellness comes, in part, from connecting with people.
Feeling gratitude can be a fulfilling, enriching experience. True gratitude transcends the act of being thankful. It leads to a more profound appreciation of all you’ve been given and still retain. It leads to a better understanding of all you still have to give. It’s a habit that generates positivity that can improve sleep, self-esteem and mental strength.
Get outside in the open air. Simply walking at your own pace is a form of spiritual connection. Seeing and hearing the life around you is renewing to the soul. Making the outdoors part of your daily experience will reenergize your body and reignite a sense of hope.
Embrace religion. Connecting with a religious community can offer great solace. A religious practice can help you find meaning in life events and provide ways to cope. Health care researchers have found that people who actively participate in their faith have better health outcomes and lower rates of anxiety and depression.
Make something. You don’t need to be a great artist to create something of value. The act of engaging in artistic endeavor can be deeply enriching. Just let yourself attempt to draw, paint, make music, write, or sing. Art helps people process emotions that are otherwise difficult to talk about. It can help you work through negative emotions and contribute to a greater sense of self.
Helping others and dedicating time and energy to a cause you believe in inspires a sense of purpose. It also improves self-confidence and connects like-minded people. Think about small acts to brighten someone else’s day. How can you volunteer time and energy to someone in need? If you remain open to these opportunities, they’ll emerge.
Spiritual wellness is part of overall wellness. Consider how you’re spending time each day. Look for the good to be done to help others. Watch for ways to grow and learn. Spiritual life-building can help in each of these areas. Concentrate on what brings fulfillment and increases joy and peace — particularly those activities that grow your spiritual life.
Spiritual care at Mary’s Woods
As a faith-based community with a full-time Spiritual Care team, Mary’s Woods has the resources to assist you on your spiritual journey. The Mary’s Woods campus is home to three chapels: the historic Chapel of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, the Marie Rose Chapel, and the Kellogg Chapel. We respect and honor all faith traditions and know that each of us walks a unique spiritual path. What matters to us is you – who you are, what you value, and where you find meaning, connection and hope. Some of the regularly scheduled spiritual activities we offer include:
- Liturgy of The Word (daily program)
- Weekly Holy Rosary
- Piano music for meditation
- Organ music for meditation
- Daily communion
- Mindfulness meditation
- Sunday Mass for The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
- Presbyterian gathering
- Taizé Prayer service
- Contemplative gatherings
- Women’s Faith Sharing group
- Men’s Faith Breakfast group
Mary’s Woods invites you to explore the many dimensions of spirituality available to residents of our community. From independent living to higher levels of care, this is a place where people share social connectedness, fellowship, and a retirement lifestyle that gives you more of what makes life great. To learn more, please call 503-400-6448 or contact us through our website.