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Beyond Religion: Exploring Spirituality’s Influence on Senior Well-being

May 16, 2023

Regardless of age, the search for happiness and meaning in life is an ongoing pursuit—and part of its beauty is that it looks different depending on whom you ask. Maybe for you, it’s captured while watching a beautiful sunrise over a cup of coffee or felt in the comforting rituals of religion and prayer. Or perhaps hearing the sweet giggles of grandchildren is your spontaneous reminder of life’s greater purpose. Time and again, experts say that spirituality plays a significant role in many areas of our lives, including physical health, mental health, and cognitive function. But what does spirituality look like? How is it important for seniors? It might cover more than you might think, and it can significantly affect older adults’ health and well-being.

Spirituality’s Many Forms

While spirituality often brings to mind religion, that’s only one interpretation of it among many. Spirituality may also include things like:

  • Meditation
  • Being in nature
  • Socializing with others
  • Spending time alone
  • Practicing generosity

At its core, spirituality involves finding yourself in connection with a greater purpose in the world. It’s a way of finding meaning in our lives, and it is deeply personal.

Spirituality’s Effect on Health

As many seniors face aging-related health issues and life changes, spirituality improves the quality of life both physically and mentally. People who are spiritual tend to have less stress, lower blood pressure, and report less depression and loneliness. They are healthier and recover from illness more quickly. Spirituality can even slow or stabilize cognitive decline! Other benefits of cultivating your spiritual self, particularly (but not only) through religious involvement, include:

  • Better sleep
  • Stronger relationships with others
  • Higher self-esteem
  • Greater compassion
  • Decreases heart rate
  • Reduces tension in the body

Spirituality at The Hickman

In line with our Quaker heritage, we acknowledge the divine in people of all faiths and backgrounds at The Hickman. Opportunities abound for those looking to live spiritually in whatever way is most meaningful to them, from prayer services and communion, growing friendships with neighbors, or simply enjoying a sunset in solitude from one of the many porches on our beautiful grounds. We are also very proud to offer a variety of yoga and meditation practices for our residents to connect to their inner selves and to a greater purpose in the world, including:

Chair Yoga – Combining asana (the physical poses of yoga) with pranayama (the breathwork and meditation components of yoga), from a seated position, we use movement to …

  • Maintain mobility
  • Increase flexibility
  • Build strength
  • Promote relaxation

As one resident insightfully shared, “Yoga is like dental floss for the joints!”

Laughter Yoga – Did you know that just ten minutes of sustained belly laughing daily can improve your mental, physical, and emotional health? It really is the best medicine! All jokes aside, though, laughter yoga can lower stress, boost immunity, and give your abs a great workout! At The Hickman, we have fun practicing laughing, breathing exercises, and meditation.

Mindfulness Meditation (also known as Shamatha meditation) – Rather than dwelling in the past or worrying about the future, mindfulness meditation draws attention to being in the present moment and accepting your thoughts as they come and go.

Loving-Kindness Meditation – This involves directing kind and compassionate intentions towards oneself and others, fostering a sense of goodwill, empathy, and connectedness with all beings.

Through meditation, we learn to accept ourselves, to be present and aware, and to treat ourselves and others with care.

[9:27 AM] Tim