Spirituality is a vital part of a healthy lifestyle. Just like we tend to our physical health, it is important to nurture our spiritual health. All people need spiritual care, whether they realize it or not. Perhaps the best place to start is to consider what spirituality really means. Spirituality is finding alignment between our values and our actions, connecting to our purpose, and finding meaning in life.
While nurturing a spiritual life is valuable for all people, it is probably even more important for older adults. An article in the online editorial Seniors Matter explains, “Drs. Kaplan and Berkman, writing for Merck and Co., cite research that shows that religion and spirituality are seen by elderly people as positive forces that help them face life with more resilience and hope; improve social and familial relationships; and cope with life stresses such as financial or health concerns… (as well) research summarized in Mayo Clinic Proceedings indicated nearly 350 studies of physical health and a full 850 studies of mental health show better health outcomes for the aged when religion and/or spirituality are at the core of their value systems.”
Spiritual care for older adults not only offers hope but also improves health outcomes for seniors.
Spiritual Needs in Senior Living
While many people may consider spiritual needs in the context of a specific religious tradition, spirituality is not necessarily tied to any specific theological doctrine. In fact, spiritual needs and concerns are usually related to the deepest questions of life, and a community working to engage in spiritual connections can help those in senior living communities continually create meaningful answers to some of the following spiritual questions:
- What do my experiences mean to me?
- How do I feel about the changes in my life?
- Why is a specific event happening? Why is it happening to me?
- Who/What do I feel thankful for?
- What relationships/circumstances/connections give me hope and comfort?
- What is important to me in my life? Who is important to me in my life?
- How do I make sense of life events/relationships/health issues?
The path to discovering the answers to these questions creates deep meaning for all humans and can be especially important for older adults as they continue to navigate a lifetime of experiences.
Practices for Spiritual Care in Senior Living
At first glance, it might seem like spiritual needs are most easily engaged through talking with a wise spiritual leader or friend, but there are actually many ways to engage spiritual needs. This is because there are many spiritual resources that help give meaning to the questions listed above. Spiritual resources are beliefs, objects, relationships, or practices that create connection and meaning in life:
- Meaningful time with family or friends
- Inspirational writing — poetry, devotionals, or spiritual non-fiction
- Music — listening or playing
- Religious communities and their leaders
- Holy writings
- Supportive communities engaged in dialogue around spiritual health
Whichever practices a person is most drawn to, these spiritual resources can help seniors create meaning, connect to their purpose, and find alignment between their values and actions. They have the ability to offer comfort, hope, and goodness both in daily life and in crisis which ultimately engages in supporting a healthy lifestyle.
Elder Care Alliance Offers Resources for Seniors’ Spiritual Needs
When home is an Elder Care Alliance assisted living community, it means outstanding care that covers all dimensions of wellness in support of a full and complete life.
Our goal is to holistically engage and enrich the mind, body, and spirit. We’re dedicated to meeting the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of all residents, no matter their beliefs.
Each of our communities has at least one staff member dedicated to spiritual care and offers space for nondenominational prayer, meditation, and worship.
Additionally, our Care Coordination Program partners with local religious congregations and dioceses to ensure their community members have access to long-term health and wellness planning services.
If you would like to know more about our caring communities, you can schedule a tour or call us at (510) 630-2793.