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People of Praise

Faith plays vital role in seniors’ independence


Ever heard someone say, “Act your age?”

It’s one thing when a mother is telling her 10-year-old not to act 2. But, to a senior (those 65 and older), acting one’s age is not always such a good idea if it’s associated with losing mental capacity and diminished physical ability. Seniors want their independence and to celebrate – rather than just be – their age.

Research consistently indicates seniors want above all to be able to think and act for themselves. A 66-year-old friend of mine fell and broke her collarbone. While dealing with immense pain, she told herself, “This is something I can do,” trying to assert her independence but hampered by the physical impairment. The amazing part was that her lively mother, in her 80s, came to be my friend’s caregiver while she recovered.

Her mother’s help calmed my friend’s fears. It meant she did not have to be concerned about leaving her home or becoming permanently dependent on people she did not know. Results from the study “Aging in Place in America” show what seniors fear the most is losing their independence; 89 percent of seniors want to age in place or in their own homes, and 53 percent are concerned about being able to do so.

Studies have proved that for those seniors over 85 – the fastest growing segment of our nation’s population – faith communities are an important source of social and emotional support.

They are an essential part of the quality of life for this set of seniors.

In remarking on his research, Harold G. Koenig, Ph.D, director and founder of the Center for the Study of Religion/Spirituality and Health at Duke University, stated, “Many people, especially those over 65, are religious and turn to religion for comfort, support, and hope when they become sick. … Religion also provides role models for suffering – Job, for example – as well as guidance for decision-making, which helps to reduce stress; answers to ultimate questions that science cannot answer; and social support, both human and divine. Most important, it is not lost with physical illness or disability.”

The Bible character Job offers us a good example of how to age gracefully even among severe adversity. Even after losing everything and becoming terribly ill, he prayed and sought a relationship with God. The result? The Bible tells us, “So the Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning” and “Job died, being old and full of days (Job 42).”

Many of us know older seniors in their 80s and 90s who live in their own homes, cook meals, and enjoy their families. They attend places of worship and pray regularly. They are representatives of what the studies tell us: prayer and participation in a faith community help seniors be independent. Supporting them in staying active and independent is something we can all celebrate.

Katie Brown lives in Fort Wayne and is a media and legislative liaison for Christian Science in Indiana. She writes about spirituality and health and is also a Christian Science practitioner and teacher. If you are interested in submitting a column (750 words or less), send it to Terri Richardson, The Journal Gazette, 600 W. Main St., Fort Wayne, IN 46802; fax 461-8893 or email Include your name, religious organization and a phone number where you can be reached. For more information, call 461-8304.