Many people believe spirituality and aging are intertwined. And they're probably right (for most today's seniors). After all, growing older tends to increase one's desire for spiritual things like comfort, meaning, purpose, and connection.
That's why seniors who want to age healthily generally prioritize their spiritual needs and desires. Their view on life can be renewed, and they might benefit from the potentially regenerative quality of life-affirming spiritual practices. Faith or a sense of interconnectedness can make a person happy. And everyone deserves it, regardless of age.
What Is Religion?
Everyone has a different answer. Spirituality is a very personal affair. For some, spirituality is defined by their faith in God or their religious practice. For others, it's defined by strong emotions, and it can include or exclude belief in a higher power, a supernatural realm, or a particular philosophy or set of beliefs.
Spirituality is a way of life that entails searching for answers to fundamental issues like, "Why are we here?"
What is our aim?
After we die, what?
Can we transcend the material?
How should we live?
Are we all alone or are we connected?
When individuals talk about their spirit, they mean the elusive power that animates their innermost self. Anything that enlivens or helps us tune into our spirit is spiritual. Devotion to certain hobbies, events, human relationships, or moments of profound insight or inspiration can lead to spiritual experiences.
People see a clear distinction between spirituality and religion, however views and perspectives vary. Religion is often described as one way to spirituality. Despite some commonality, there are other distinctions.
It is often described as:
- One thought that encompasses all.
- Personal, not dogmatic
- A private feeling
- Religion is frequently characterized as: well-defined and organised
- Formal and religious
- Centered on community, rituals, and doctrine
- A positive external experience
Getting Older Makes Spirituality More Vital
For many, spirituality does grow in importance. But it's a unique experience. Nobody is the same. It's a fact that we all have different requirements, perspectives, personalities, Others turn to spiritual development to add richness, purpose, inner strength, or comfort to their life as they reflect on the past and plan for the future.
Many things influence a senior's desire to grow spiritually. In the case of an old American, considerations such as:
Retirement: This stage of life often brings substantial changes to our everyday activities, roles, and self-perception. It's an exciting and rewarding period, but it's also new. That's especially true for retirees or those who no longer spend their days raising or sustaining a family.
Grieving: As we age, more of our friends and family members will die. As a result, we may grieve more frequently than we used to. Faith or spirituality can help us cope with the loss of loved ones and remember what they meant to us.
Physical decline is another reason why aging and spirituality are so strongly related. We may require help with various areas of daily life, which can be embarrassing or inconvenient. If our perception of ourselves doesn't reflect reality, we may wonder who we are. Spirituality can help us heal.
More time to think: One of the benefits of growing older is having more time to examine life's mysteries and look back on our accomplishments. We get to reflect on our successes and failures, while developing a meaningful story that connects them all. The linkages between our lives and those of previous or future generations may become clearer. In fact, one facet of aging's spirituality is that our perspective can evolve in unexpected and wonderful ways.
A rising sense of mortality: Many of us dread death. We don't know what to expect or if our spirit (or soul) will survive. Will our consciousness survive? What will become to our loved ones? Have we left a lasting legacy? Who will remember us? Spirituality can help us accept our mortality.
Seniors may develop new habits or methods of living as they age and spiritualize. Many spiritually minded seniors:
- Focus on inner lives rather than exterior expectations
- Speak more from the heart
- Make more meaningful connections with others.
- Improve your patience and focus.
- Seek more time alone.
- Make them more aware of time by living in the now
- Let's take more time to love.
How Common Is Religion Among Seniors?
According to a 2014 Pew Research Center survey, religion is particularly popular among seniors. In fact, the biggest percentage of all age groups evaluated religion as very or somewhat essential (85%). Also, among those aged 65 or older:
74% believe in heaven
70% answered they absolutely believe in God.
66% believe in hell and pray at least once a day.
48% said they go to church weekly.
40% rely on religion for moral guidance.
And the most popular faiths? Christian religions are the most generally practiced among American persons over 65. This age group's Christians were 83 percent. Specifically, 29% were Evangelical Protestant.
24% were Catholic.
22% were Mainline Protestant
Other Christian denominations, such as black Protestants and Mormons, had far lesser numbers (six percent and one percent, respectively). 5% of seniors over 65 affiliated with non-Christian faiths like:
3 % Judaism
Only 12% of elderly persons in this age range were not religious. In fact, 2% of them identified as atheists, whereas 2% identified as agnostics.
Can you be an atheist and spiritual?
That depends on your viewpoint. Religion is often mistaken for a spiritual life. But atheists don't believe in a literal God. Many atheists consider themselves spiritual, but not in the way certain religious people define it.
Meaning, connection, purpose, and morality are not derived from religious theories or supernatural conceptions. Instead, they come from ordinary life, observations, philosophical thought, logical reasoning, and what science is teaching us about the physical cosmos. All of that is compatible with a spirituality defined by deep emotion and a quest for answers to life's greatest riddles.
Simply said, many atheists feel deeply connected to the world and want to improve themselves and help others. Part of their quest for meaning in an ever-changing universe.
Spiritual Care for an Aging Adult
A person's health is not the only indicator of their well-being. Mental and spiritual demands exist. So many seniors with mental or physical issues benefit from holistic care and spiritual therapy. A chaplain or spiritual counselor may help older persons heal faster or more completely from injuries, emotional distress, or other afflictions. Spiritual counsel can also give calm, solace, and bravery to those facing a terminal disease or death.
Other benefits of spiritual care include:
An upbeat perspective
More purpose and significance
A higher sense of dignity
Religious care is often quite crucial for elders who are ardent in their faith. After all, they may desire to follow certain rituals or behaviors relating to their eating. Faith-specific care is crucial when a devoutly religious individual is nearing death.
Spiritual Activities for Seniors
You may do a lot as an older American to grow closer to your spiritual center. Devotees can awaken new views that revitalize their outlook and provide them inner power for the rest of their human journey.
Every religion has spiritual activities to help you connect with the divine. Praying, chanting, fasting, participating in rituals, marking important occasions, and other practices are examples. But you don't have to be religious to revive your spirituality. Anything that you enjoy, that makes you feel whole or fully alive, or that connects you to the world might be deemed spiritual. Consider pursuits like:
Working for a good cause can provide numerous great sentiments that are firmly rooted in your spiritual essence.
Nature time: The world is filled of natural treasures, big and little, that can inspire you to keep living. Simply sitting under a giant tree, planting flowers, strolling through a garden, listening to the beach waves, or observing or playing with animals are easy activities.
According to the Pew Research Center poll, roughly 53% of seniors over 65 meditate at least once a week. Meditation can help you become more self-aware and accept aspects of life that are out of your control, among other things.
Joining prayer groups: Praying with others is a terrific way to socialize. As part of a collective spiritual endeavor, it can also help keep you inspired and hopeful.
Sharing memories might help you feel more grounded and connected.
Music is a universal language for a reason. Music has the capacity to bring practically anyone closer to the present moment. Favorite music from the past can also bring back happy memories, comfort, and spirit.
Getting a massage: Human touch and physical pleasure can help you let go of anxieties and focus on the present, which can help you feel connected to the world.
Dancing to moving music might help you feel connected to the universe. Dancing with others can intensify and expand that sense of connection.
Yoga: Beyond its many physical benefits, yoga can help you achieve a higher state of awareness by focusing your attention on the present moment.
Read or write: Words may frequently be transforming. Reading good writers' views or stories might help your spiritual center express itself. Writing down your own words can help you discover more about yourself, your beliefs, your role in the universe, and what gives you purpose.
What could be more spiritual than creating? Making something new can inspire a sense of harmony and possibility. Drawing, painting, sculpture, and many other arts and crafts allow for meditative and transcendent creativity.
Hands-on or eye-to-eye: Simple yet intimate interpersonal connections allow us to feel one with others' spiritual centres.
Doing nothing: By removing distractions and sitting in quiet, you can focus on your thoughts and feelings, which can reveal your spiritual core.
Ultimately, no matter what you believe, the things you like the most—or that bring you closer to others or make a great impact on the world—are likely to feel the most spiritual. Don't worry about your age; practically everyone has the same fundamental questions about life's ultimate secrets.