by Jason Lewis
When it comes to maintaining – and oftentimes improving – both physical and mental health, there’s no activity that packs in more benefits than regularly attending church. For seniors, being part of a church community is an almost guaranteed pathway to a better social life, better overall fitness, and cleaner living. As they age, seniors can turn to friends, family, community organizations, and support groups to help them cope with various struggles – but the church can be all of those things rolled into one.
An automatic support group
When you participate in a church community, you’re gaining dozens of friends in about the easiest way possible. As we age, we often lose contact with friends due to various reasons – geography, health, mobility issues, etc. Having a set community full of local people who, as a tenet of their faith, welcome you into the fold, can help seniors struggling to build new relationships.
This church support group will be there to keep tabs on your wellbeing. If you don’t show up to church, you’ll have more than one or two people calling or visiting. If you need support to cope with an illness, you’ll have it. If you need to talk to someone about depression or anxiety, you’ll have that ear.
A new sense of purpose
Seniors often suffer from a lack of purpose as they age. They retire. Their families become self-sufficient. They lose their spouses. This lack of purpose can be mentally challenging for some. People like to be depended on.
A church community can provide this. When you’re part of a bigger group, people depend on you for various things. Not only that, but churches specifically provide outreach, giving seniors a chance to give back to their community through charity and good works projects.
“The selflessness that comes from going to church encourages one to action. Places of worship oftentimes promote service and goodwill action and will host a variety of events for volunteering, enabling one to teach, guide, and help others,” notes HealthFitnessRevolution.com.
A boost to the body and mind
Studies have shown that staying social as we age reduces our risk of death from a number of causes. Church provides opportunities to be social – which is incredibly important for aging adults. Between worship services, potlucks, bible study, and other community events, seniors often socialize with church friends multiple times per week. Being social can help to stave off cognitive decline and help to prevent seniors from falling into depression caused by loneliness.
Church also provides a boost to seniors’ physical health. By being “forced” to get up and get moving multiple times a week, seniors get much needed exercise. Seniors can also become involved in various groups at church that promote exercise like walking clubs, gardening clubs, and sporting teams.
An alternative to substance abuse
Seniors are just as susceptible to substance abuse – if not more so – than younger age groups. Loneliness, depression, lack of purpose, chronic pain, and tragic life events can all cause seniors to turn to drugs and alcohol for comfort. Substance abuse is unhealthy in anyone, but it’s especially harmful to seniors who are often already suffering from other medical conditions. Seniors also take more prescription medication, which can lead to drug complications. Not only that, but seniors’ ability to metabolize alcohol is weaker. This means that drug and alcohol abuse can be especially harmful – and even deadly – to seniors.
Church provides an alternative for those struggling with substance abuse – a place to find comfort that’s not the bottom of a bottle. For those in recovery, the social support system and physical activity that a church can provide is vital.
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