When we’re young, the concept of spirituality and religion can be very simple and easy to grasp. But as we grow older, we’re faced with more complicated questions and have to invest more time reflecting on our developing faith.
Our faith grows with us, and while it can be challenging, it also can be more rewarding and fulfilling as we mature. Exploring your spirituality after 60 can bring a wide variety of benefits — read on to discover the ways it helps improve your life and how you can nurture it.
How Spirituality Affects Your Life
There are a lot of ways spirituality can affect your life. Some of the effects include physical health benefits, mental health benefits, and an increased sense of purpose.
A variety of scientific studies have shown that religion and spirituality have the potential to help improve your health. Some of the benefits of religion include lower blood pressure, a healthier immune system, and increased longevity. But it’s not just physical—spirituality helps your mental health, as well. People who have taken the time to develop their spirituality tend to cope better with life’s challenges and experience less stress in their daily lives.
Spirituality can also affect your life by giving you a distinct sense of purpose. That’s important, because a recent study shows the positive connection between finding meaning in life and overall health. A meaningful life is “basically the idea that your life makes sense, you’re here for a reason, and you’re significant in the world,” says the paper’s lead author, psychologist Stephanie Hooker.
Of course, everyone’s definition of a meaningful life is a little different. Perhaps you derive meaning from your family relationships or from the difference you’ve made throughout your career. All reasons are meaningful in their own right, but spirituality can help bolster your sense of purpose and give you extra guidance.
Spirituality for Older Adults
Religion and spirituality help form our individual identities as children. It’s one of the ways that we begin to understand the world around us and our place in it. But how does that change as we’re aging?
To answer that question, AARP conducted a study to take a closer look at spirituality and religion in Americans age 45 and older. It’s obvious that our spirituality grows and matures as we grow and mature, but some of the study’s findings were surprising. Here are some of the statistics from their nationwide study on spirituality and aging:
- 56% of adults over 45 regularly attend church
- The two main reasons people attended religious services were to worship God or a higher power, or to feel closer to God
- 40% of people said that the most satisfying or religious experience was helping others, while 35% said it was living a good moral life. Other experiences seen as the most rewarding were prayer, being with family members, attending services, and communing with nature.
- Women tend to be more regular churchgoers than men (although not by an extreme amount; 63% of women versus 48% of men were regular churchgoers).
- Eight in ten Americans age 45 or older rate themselves as religious.
While there were many positive responses to the AARP study, there were some negative results. For example, approximately one-third of Americans over age 45 claim that they’ve experienced dissatisfaction with their church or religion.
As you’ve grown in your faith and spirituality, you’ve likely come across teachings that similarly bring you dissatisfaction. This is why it’s a good idea to decide what’s right for your own spirituality. It’s important to find a way to express your faith in a way that feels authentic and fulfilling.
Of course, many religions expect that their members will follow the rules, so to speak. If that holds true for your religion, a good way to work through difficulties or things you don’t agree with is to spend some time in prayerful contemplation or reflection. As Fr. Edward McIlmail, a theology and Scripture professor at Mater Ecclesiae College, advised, “if you have a difficulty or doubt about a particular issue, try praying about it. Try reading up on the issue, to understand what and why the Church teaches it.”
If you disagree with something, it isn’t always a bad thing. It just means that you’re taking the time to ask deep questions and strengthen your own understanding of a topic. For example, Pope Francis himself does not shy away from disagreement within the Catholic Church. In a 2014 interview, he said that “resistance means different points of view, not something dirty” and pointed out that it’s good to create an environment where differences can be addressed.
“Two clear qualities are needed: courage to speak and humbleness to listen,” he concluded.
Tips for Improving Your Spirituality as You Age
As you age, the shape of your life naturally changes. So does your relationship to religion and spirituality. Here are some tips on how to get the most out of your spirituality:
- Keep asking questions. Why do you believe what you believe? What would help strengthen your faith? What could you do differently?
- Give thanks. Don’t forget to take a moment every day to reflect on what you’re grateful for.
- Take time to reflect. Not only is it a fulfilling exercise, but it can be beneficial to your mental and physical health.
- Stay optimistic. Your faith or spirituality can help comfort you in difficult times and inspire you during the good times.
- Pray. It’s a simple act of faith, but sometimes we forget how much of an impact it can have on our spirituality. Check out these 10 ways to improve your prayer life.
Why Spirituality Matters
Spirituality is important for many reasons. Not only does it keep you healthy both mentally and physically, but it helps you better relate to the world around you and gives you a higher sense of purpose. Even if spirituality has always been a big part of your life, it never hurts to take some extra time to strengthen and nurture it.
At The Esquiline, it’s easy to live out your spirituality. We believe retirement is the perfect time to explore your faith and our goal is to provide the best avenues to do so. We have a dedicated Pastoral Care team, daily Mass, weekly Protestant services, retreats, and more to help you reflect and meditate on the beauty of the world around you. If you have any questions about what life is like at continuing care retirement community like The Esquiline, you can contact us online or call us at 1.800.533.6279.