3 of the Ways Attending Church Improves Seniors' Health
Most people attend church for their spiritual health. Now, there is even more evidence that seniors who attend church also experience physical and mental health benefits. How can showing up to church services help seniors? Home Care 4 Seniors explores the possibilities and offers some suggestions for seniors, too.
1. Reduced Stress, Increased Longevity, and Improved Overall Health
According to one of the latest studies on the health benefits of attending church, middle-aged adults who attended church services at least one time in the past year are half as likely to experience premature death than those who did not. The study, conducted by Vanderbilt University, also found that attending religious services correlates with lower stress and increased longevity. Similarly, a Harvard study found that attending a church service more than once a week contributes to a 33% lower mortality for women when compared with women who never attended services.
The benefits of reducing stress for seniors are not to be overlooked. When you attend church, you have time to sit quietly and reflect. You focus your energy on worship and prayer, which helps relax you. Seniors especially need to manage stress because they have less resilience to it, which makes it “even harder to bounce back physically from the toll the stress response takes.” Finding ways to minimize stress, like regular exercise, listening to music, or being outdoors, is important for all seniors. Lower stress results in lower blood pressure, a stronger immune system, and decreased risk of anxiety, depression, insomnia, heartburn, indigestion, and heart disease.
2. Churches Provide a Sense of Community
Seniors especially are at risk of experiencing isolation and becoming withdrawn as they lose spouses and friends. They also sometimes have difficulty driving. As a result, their mental health suffers as they struggle to find purpose and become lonely. Seniors who are isolated have a higher risk of mortality and a higher risk of cognitive decline and dementia, which can include memory loss and impaired judgment.
Fortunately, attending church services gives seniors a sense of community and prevents isolation and loneliness. They visit with friends and fellow congregation members, have an opportunity to enjoy snacks and beverages while talking to others and learn that others care for them and their well-being. They also have the opportunity to speak with the minister and arrange for phone calls or visits throughout the week to alleviate their loneliness.
Some churches also provide seniors with more socialization opportunities to ward off loneliness and depression. For example, some churches offer health classes for seniors or space to engage in knitting, reading, fly-tying, or other hobbies. Other churches host game days to give seniors a chance to enjoy themselves while playing games with others. Still, other churches host luncheons for seniors to give them a place to socialize.
3. Improved Nutrition for Better Physical Health
The sense of community offered by churches goes beyond improving seniors’ mental health when they host luncheons or dinners throughout the year. These churches make sure their senior members get proper nutrition to continue to lead healthy lives. It’s not uncommon to find churches taking fresh produce and other healthy foods to seniors at home, either. In fact, some churches offer meal programs a few times a week free of charge to seniors to support their nutrition and health.
Many churches and other non-profit organizations also help seniors become part of church communities or attend meal programs by offering transportation for those who no longer drive. For instance, churches and nonprofits throughout the country offer volunteer driving programs. Volunteers drive seniors to church and back, usually free of charge. If your area does not offer these services, seniors can use public transportation or taxi services to get to church. If you don’t know which transportation options are available in your area, visit Eldercare.gov to search for resources and services near you.
The mental and physical health benefits of attending church for seniors are numerous. You will lower your stress level and increase your longevity, and you will become part of a caring community to feel less isolated and lonely. You also will have a chance to socialize and eat with others who care about you. Who knew church could be this good for you?
This article is brought to you by Home Care 4 Seniors, a home care agency providing personalized care to the elderly who need assistance for a few hours up to round-the-clock care. Our services provide an option for seniors to stay in the comfort of their homes. For more information, contact us today!