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Thursday, September 12, 2024

The Importance of Spiritual Health As We Grow Older

Do you view aging as a spiritual journey as well as a physical one?

For many people, aging comes with challenges. Health concerns, family and career changes can make older age feel very different than the stages of life that come before it. But our older years can also be a wonderful time of growth and purpose. Spirituality can help older individuals approach aging in a meaningful, positive way, and there are many examples of its positive impact among residents at Chicagoland Methodist Senior Services (CMSS). Could strengthening your own sense of spirituality help you see the opportunities in growing older and find more fulfillment in your later years?

To answer that question, first consider what spirituality means to you.

The definition of spirituality can be expansive, and encompass much more than you might assume. Religion is often thought of as a central part of spirituality, but it is far from the only way to have a spiritual life. Have you ever felt a particularly strong connection to the world around you while painting a picture or listening to music? Have you felt your sense of purpose strengthened while volunteering with those in need in your community or helping a neighbor or family member? Have you experienced a deep connection to something bigger than yourself while walking in nature or while expressing your gratitude to a friend or family member? All these things and many others can be considered spiritual pursuits.

At Chicagoland Methodist Senior Services (CMSS), residents find a sense of spirituality­—of meaning, purpose and connection—in these types of activities and many other programs offered to residents. There’s a strong case for senior adults to pursue opportunities to help them feel more engaged and purpose-filled, as several notable studies have found a link between spirituality and health in older adults.

CMSS recognizes the importance of spirituality and encourages residents to explore their own spiritual experiences in whatever ways feel appropriate to them. One of CMSS’ core values is providing services in a nonsectarian, faith-based environment where spiritual well-being is placed above denomination or religious beliefs; this value is lived out by CMSS staff and residents daily. Many residents find spiritual engagement through the arts, such as through CMSS trips to many arts organizations including the Art Institute of Chicago and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and by participating in varied art projects themselves. Residents may also find spiritual rewards by joining community field trips, playing with animals during CMSS’ visiting pets program and engaging in many other fulfilling activities. Many others get in touch with their spirituality by attending faith-based services or simply through meaningful interactions with their neighbors, friends and family.

On Saturday January 16, CMSS will host Spirituality: Aging with an Attitude, a presentation by Mary Ann Spina that will explore this topic in more detail. Mary Ann is a pastoral associate at Holy Cross Parish in Deerfield, Illinois, where her work includes directing adult religious education classes and Faith in Action volunteers. She also co-teaches an interfaith (Jewish-Catholic) class. The presentation will be held from 9:30 – 11:00 am at Covenant Home of Chicago 2720 W. Foster Avenue in Chicago.

If you are looking for ways to improve your own – or a friend or loved one’s — spiritual connections, this is the event for you. Spina will share 10 simple steps that anyone can do to embrace spirituality as one ages. These steps encompass aspects of acceptance, decision-making and letting go, and do not focus on a specific set of religious beliefs.

Spina feels that older age is the ideal time to get in touch with spirituality, in whatever way you may wish to engage with it. And it’s proven to enrich life, as well as mental and physical health.

“Sometimes we don’t have the time to look back and reflect and consider, even on a day-to-day basis,” Spina explains. “In your twenties and thirties and even into your forties, you’re trying to establish yourself and your career and your family, and it’s hard to have time to sit and reflect and review. Sometimes, as we get older, we have more time available to us to reflect on our spiritual outlook, and this can be the ideal phase of life to get in touch with our spiritual sides.”

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