* References for "Four Reasons to Attend Church After Retirement" 

New York Times - https://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/21/opinion/sunday/luhrmann-why-going-to-church-is-good-for-you.html; social activities - http://www.negeriatrics.com/blog/how-socialization-can-benefit-the-elderly; DrugRehab.org - https://www.drugrehab.org/substance-abuse-addiction-elderly/seniors who volunteer - http://www.swnewsmedia.com/chaska_herald/news/opinion/guest_columns/five-benefits-of-volunteering-in-retirement/article_49a80aeb-a493-5b9e-9220-e6d512bad8d8.htmlcommunity structure - https://www.sunriseseniorliving.com/blog/january-2015/4-nonreligious-reasons-for-seniors-to-join-a-church.aspx

Four Reasons to Attend Church After Retirement, by Jason Lewis

Jason has a BA in Human Performance/Exercise Health Science and is a Certified Personal Trainer CPR/First Aid Instructor. He is passionate about helping seniors stay healthy and injury-free. He created an organization called StrongWell to share his tips on senior and caregiver fitness. In part, his passion comes from being a caregiver for his mother. He says, "In recent years, I’ve noticed what an impact church has had on Mom, and not just spiritually. Going to church and participating in church activities has helped her stay both mentally and physically active."

Older adults stop attending church for a number of reasons. Often, they have moved into an assisted living community outside of their home church area. Other times, transportation becomes an issue. However, a person’s golden years are perhaps the most important time to recommit to their congregation. And surprisingly, a closeness with spirituality is not the only benefit. Here are four reasons why seniors should make weekly church attendance a priority:
1. Socialization. Seniors suffer with loneliness at a far greater rate than children and middle-aged adults. Spousal loss and a dwindling social network are partly to blame. But, as the New York Times points out, regular church attendance opens up numerous social opportunities and activities that can help stave off loneliness and depression on top of boosting the immune system. Church acts as a socialization safety net where seniors don’t have to rely on their adult children and grandchildren when they simply need someone to talk to or a helping hand. New England Geriatrics notes that social activities, such as attending church, can actually increase a person’s life span by a few years.
2. Going to church changes a person’s behavior and outlook on life. Religious communities, even small ones, may be instrumental in encouraging healthy lifestyle changes among senior members. Church attendance offers a senior something to look forward to and provides plenty of opportunities to see the good of the world.
Perhaps most importantly, going to church can help a senior avoid engaging in risky behaviors, such as substance abuse. DrugRehab.org explains, “Due to life circumstances that may be unique to their age or health concerns, elderly people often confront a variety of emotions or mindsets that may be somewhat debilitating and hard to bear. These include a sense of isolation, loneliness, boredom, and grief, as well as others.” When a person attends church, they have more positive events in their lives and are therefore more able to regulate their emotions.
3. Volunteer opportunities. As a general statement, churches are known throughout their communities for charitable contributions to both members and the neighborhood where they are located. Whether it’s baking cookies for the local fire department or knitting blankets for hospitalized children, seniors can always find a way to contribute.
The Chaska Herald notes that seniors who volunteer put themselves in a unique position to bridge multiple generation gaps. They can work as mentors to young people and even spend time reveling in the joys of new life in the church’s nursery or Sunday school. And volunteering works to keep the brain active, which is important for cognitive health. In addition to these relatively subjective factors, volunteering also encourages physical activity, which can have a measurable positive on overall health.
4. Church offers a sense of community. More than just socialization and volunteer opportunities, church provide a community structure where seniors can find a place to belong. Regular interaction with members of this community can also help a senior stay abreast of news he or she may have otherwise missed. Going to church provides a backdrop for a senior to maintain a weekly routine and the foundation upon which he or she can build a life they can enjoy outside of their immediate family.
Through interactions with church members, seniors may also connect with other people within their own community who enjoy common interest. A practical aspect of this community is that seniors will have access to recommendations of trustworthy individuals when they need services such as home modifications or automobile repair.
 Of course, all of the positive benefits of going to church serve a greater purpose by helping an older adult maintain his or her faith. People who attend church and form a relationship with God are happier, healthier, and have a more positive outlook on life regardless of age.          *See below for references.

Bob's Story

Bob is Vicki's husband. "It’s changed our way of life considerably. However some of the time you wouldn’t realize it. Vicki is a very sweet person. People are flabbergasted when they hear me talk about her and then they see her. The two don’t match up because she is so positive and smiling and sweet and helping others that it doesn’t look like it has. But she doesn’t get to go to church very often, she couldn’t hold some of the grand babies when they were younger at different times because she wasn’t strong enough or she couldn’t stand or lift or walk and do those the same time.

We’ve taken it in stride for the most part. This year, it felt like I hit the wall of going on so long. Before cancer hit, when we talked about retirement, we talked about volunteering and we talked about driving all around the U.S. watching baseball games. In ‘97 it was like that went out the door. So we weren’t able to do that. We don’t dwell on it and we’re not bitter about it but it is different. Simple things--Vicki can’t walk very fast. Being a UPS driver I have a faster walk than probably average people. Just walking slow through the grocery store just wears my legs out. Some of those things are tough to deal with. Vicki’s made the whole process much easier."

Rachel's story

Vicki's Story

Vicki was in her forties when she found out she had stage 4 breast cancer. She fought it for over 12 years. She died February 12, 2010. Here is her story: 
       "In 1997 around Christmas time I knew something wasn’t quite right but I wasn’t certain what. By the time I got things going it was in January and it was confirmed with a mammogram and so forth that I did have breast cancer. It was quite a surprise because I’d had trouble with cysts before and I thought this was my only problem. But it did go into the breast cancer.
       I got good quick care but it’s been a long journey. I started with surgeries and the normal things and they kept finding out it was a little more they had originally thought--a little more serious. Yet I was ready to fight it. I had no doubt that I could do it. I did have a good attitude. We really felt that if the Lord brought this into our lives we were going to give it to him to deal with and we weren’t going to be the ones to take care of everything.  We would put it in his hands and trust him. It hasn’t always been easy and we have failed on occasion. For the most part we really see that God has been working in our lives. As Bob has said many times, we wouldn’t trade this for anything although we would have liked to have the information in a different way.
       It’s just a daily struggle sometimes. The doctors that I saw all were encouraging although the more we learned the more serious it was. They still felt that they could do things even though was stage four they felt they could give me years to live--at times less than more but they did and they still have been working towards that end.  They have never used the word “remission” because of the type of cancer that I have and the stage. It was almost like it was a dormant for a little while but it was still there. So I have never had the “you’re going to be cured” idea. That was not my situation. I knew that they could add years to my life with medical procedures and so forth--they thought they could and they have.
       One of the things people ask is has cancer affected your marriage? Oh yes, anything that is traumatic affects your marriage, I think.  We thought we had a good marriage.  We had been married for quite awhile.  We liked being married to each other.  We were going along kind of along our own ways.  Not really drifting apart but just acting in our own lives, my husband and I.  He was working and I was working.  We’re raising a family and then all of a sudden, oh my goodness, what’s going to happen?  Am I going to be here to be his wife? I need to be taken to the doctor, I can’t drive myself.  There are so many things that affect you and it’s very stressful.  There’s no getting around it.  We wouldn’t have traded this incidence with cancer for anything--we wouldn’t, because we have learned so much.  And yet if anybody could get this knowledge without going through it, it would be wonderful. 
       We had to adjust. We had family and friends praying for us, which helped. We talked to the Lord about it. We gave it to the Lord--not that we were perfect.  We have grown in our love for each other and our understanding for each other more than we ever would have without this.  When you love somebody you’re willing to give them your all.  I felt that. 
       When I was ill, my friends, my husband, my children, everybody came to give me that support and what I need it and was willing to.  And I took it.  And that helped.  We had to make adjustments financially.  Socially, I could not do the things I use to do.  But now I just kind of feel like we’ve grown into one person sometimes, the two of us together.  He is so understanding. It’s turned out for the good.  It’s very difficult to explain how you are a better person because of something like this.  But the Lord makes it that way. It’s not us.
       Since I’ve had cancer or been more interested in death because it’s been looming right there.  I think of it more often.  And I firmly believe that God is control and when He wants me with him in heaven and glory, I will be there.  Until then I will be here on earth.  I kinda wish I knew his time line a little more because I feel I have an obligation and an urgency to prepare other people around me for what’s going to happened to me.  I know, well we all know we’ll be dying, but I have this to think about because it is looming right in front of me quite often.  How do you deal with that and how do you talk about that to your friends?  Everybody, not everybody, but most people tend to think that death is the worst thing that can happen.  Well, as a believer that’s not true—it’s the best thing. That’s the end of my suffering. That’s where it all begins again for me.  And so I’m trying to share with people my feelings about this.
       I wanted to pick just couple of scriptures and things that have meant a lot to me over the last 12 to 13 years.  It’s each hard to pick just a few but I’ve done my best.  And the first one would be Psalm 23, the shepherd’s Psalm.  We are the sheep, how he is our shepherd, how he guides and direct us.  Another scripture is Psalm 121, where help cometh from the Lord and the Lord is my keeper and that he will keep my soul.  Verse 105--that God’s word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.  And then let’s go somewhere else, to the New Testament James 1:12-13--I can persevere and that God does not tempt me. God will help me persevere in my life.  And then finally, my most favor one, I think, is Philippians 4:8.  I want to read that one. “Finally, brethren, whatsoever is true, whatsoever is honorable, whatsoever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute--if there is any excellence, and anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things.”  

Deb's memorial to her mom.
"In the last five years of my mother’s journey through dementia, I have so often asked God the big “WHY” questions: Why my Mom? Why did she have the one disease that scared her most? Why did God let this happen? As my sister described her, Mom was a very strong, creative, hard working mother of six. Even when she worked outside the home, she was always there for us. She was part of the church, always involved with our school, and all the activities six kids can get into. She taught us by example, words, and yes, an occasional swat with a spatula. She deserved to have an easy life as she aged. It’s come to me in the last couple of years that God was still using Mom through her disease to teach me about life and how to live it. As she progressed deeper into dementia, I was learning many practical things, but I found out I was also learning some greater lessons. I learned more about patience and compassion and how to be a better listener. I learned that my point of view was not as important as giving peace of mind to someone else. I learned that love shines through eyes even when we cannot say it. I learned to treasure small moments of joy and keep them close to my heart. I will always treasure Mom’s laughter over a little barking dog my sister sent last Christmas. It was the first and last spontaneous laugh we had seen from her for a couple of years."

Have you seen the hand of God working in your experience with a life-threatening illness or with a death in your family? We want to hear from you. Your witness could help someone else who is going through a similar experience. Tell us your stories on Facebook or send them to info@wjministries.org

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