By Marnita Coleman,
Special to the AFRO
Today’s older class has a “new attitude” about retiring and living a life of leisure. Abandoning the once-anticipated perspective of disengaging from social roles after retirement, senior citizens are embracing a new phase of positive aging.
The senior citizens of today are directing the latter episodes of their lives in living color, being more intentional than their counterparts of previous decades. These strategic seniors are tapping into religion, spirituality and belief to maintain their vitality, quality of life and longevity.
Unlike the couch-potato retirees of yesterday, obsessed with game shows, soap operas and detective stories, the senior citizens of today are calculated in their desires- especially when it comes to the soul. They are forming stronger relationships, seeking after God and holding on tight to their faith.
“My faith in God gives me the willingness to help those who are less fortunate than me. The Bible teaches loving your fellowman and serving humanity, and I believe in that,” says 75-year-old Charles Johnson from Prince George’s County, Md.
“Instead of walking around grumpy, I look for opportunities to help someone–which makes me feel better and improves my life because I see the brighter side of things.”
Enthusiastic and strong, Johnson said that praying and reading the Bible keeps him going!
“I thank the Lord every day for waking me up, being able to maintain myself, and doing the things I have to do on a daily basis,” Johnson states.
Studies show that older adults who practice some form of religion, spirituality or other belief system are more mentally and socially connected fostering better relationships. Affiliation with religious communities can boost physical health and has a powerful impact on emotional well-being.
A relationship with God can decrease feelings of helplessness and isolation and increase feelings of purpose and belonging which brings happiness and satisfaction in life.
Dea Wells, a 93-year-old from Silver Spring, Md., states upfront that she is “busy!”
Wells lives alone but does not “feel isolated.” She admits that having faith gives her confidence, hope and comfort– especially when praying for healing.
Wells relies on “good connections through family, friends, and church,” and stays active by telephone, writing letters and meet-ups with neighbors at a nearby park where they talk and share. “I don’t always wait for friends to contact me. I’ll make the first move because I don’t mind reaching out at all.”
Wells still keeps in contact with eight friends from first grade and is an intercessor on a weekly prayer line.
According to studies by the Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation, people feel like they can cope with anything they are going through when they have some type of religion or spirituality. Roughly 84 percent of older adults between the ages of 50 and 80 say that they have religious and/or spiritual beliefs that matter. About 40 percent say their beliefs are now more important than ever, and 28 percent say they are open to talking with healthcare professionals about their beliefs.
Constance Anele, DNP, RN, manager of Divine Connections Assisted Living Facility in the Waltherson-Frankford Community of East Baltimore told the AFRO that senior citizens can benefit from care that takes their faith into consideration.
“Holistic treatment considers the mental, physical, emotional, spiritual and social aspect of the whole person. Sometimes old age is associated with chronic illnesses–for instance, high blood pressure, diabetes and cancer.”
Anele said that senior citizens become more “vulnerable when sick and lonely, and they can be impacted by a number of things– such as religion,” because it offers an opportunity to “add prayer, gospel music, Bible reading” and other activities to their daily lives.
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