Seniors Reap Added Benefits from Church Attendance

Guest Post

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While most of us in the church community recognize the religious benefits of church attendance, science is endorsing participation for additional reasons.  It seems researchers are agreeing that church is good for us, particularly as we age.  There are valuable contributions to our quality of life that can be measured, in addition to our immeasurable spiritual connections. 

Longer life.  A longer lifespan is just one boon of church attendance with some studies reflecting church going adults over the age of 65 a full 35 percent more apt to live longer than those not attending church.  According to Today, someone who never attends worship services is twice as likely to die prematurely than someone who attends at least once per year.  

Health benefits.  Elderly church attendees appear to enjoy superior health to their unchurched counterparts.  Older adults, who attend church enjoy a bolstered immune system, are less apt to get cancer, lower the risk for high blood pressure, are less apt to suffer strokes, and enjoy a reduced risk for clogged arteries.  It appears the act of worship is at the heart of the health improvements, although scientists couldn’t pinpoint whether the gathering together as a group or if the activity itself were determining factors.  Some speculate that the cleaner lifestyle churches typically endorse may be a key, with those who attend church possibly making healthier choices such as monitoring their weight better, limiting alcohol consumption, not abusing illegal substances and not smoking.  

Social connection.  There is every reason to believe that being connected with like-minded believers is a contributing factor to these findings.  As Fitness Magazine explains, people who attend church together enjoy a shared vision for life and improved social support.  They experience a better quality of life from embracing healthy living, believing in certain social norms, and by demonstrating those norms by reaching out to each other during troubled times.  

Some theorists suggest being engaged with other worshipers means you will enjoy improved mental health and any illnesses you may suffer will be noticed by friends and family more quickly, meaning faster treatment along with more support through the healing process.  

Many fellow church-goers can spend time outside of the church following healthy pursuits.  Seniors, for example, could gather together to enjoy a healthy meal or a bit of exercise.  Those enrolled in Medicare Advantage programs, which offer access to fitness facilities via the Silversneakers Program, could even get together for an exercise session to help them stay in good shape.  Regardless of what they choose to pursue, seniors should try to engage in social activities whenever possible.

Prayerful matters.  Prayer in and of itself offers its share of benefits.  Spending time in prayer and meditation can relax your body, slowing your metabolism and brain waves.  Through those mechanisms, prayer improves health by lowering blood pressure, lowering risk of depression, stress and anxiety, reducing the risk for ulcers, and dropping incidents of migraines.  

Enjoying an active prayer life helps you maintain a positive outlook on life, weathering storms better and employing healthier coping skills when troubles come your way.  Prayer and mindfulness can improve your focus and concentration, taking you away from worries for the future and regrets of the past.  In this way it’s an asset to those recovering from addiction, which some researchers feel is reaching epidemic proportions among the elderly. 

Benefits abound!  Attending church offers more to seniors than the obvious benefits of spiritual engagement.  Participating in church can improve physical health and lengthen life while keeping seniors socially connected.  An active prayer life offers health benefits as well, both mentally and physically.  

Author: Jason Lewis

Published by Kathryne Fassbender

Creative Gerontologist, Speaker, Catholic Innovator. I am also the granddaughter of someone who lived with Vascular Dementia.

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