A very important measure of a senior living community is not only the attention paid to physical wellbeing but also how well it meets the spiritual needs of its residents. If this is important to you and your family, you should inquire about religious services when visiting assisted living communities.
An ongoing survey of religion in America by the Pew Forum finds that 48% of adults 65 and older go to church on a regular basis and 65% of those ages 50 or older consider religion “very important” to them. The Religious Landscape Study asks more than 35,000 Americans from all 50 states about their religious affiliations, beliefs and practices.
Religion creates a sense of meaning in one’s life that becomes especially important in advanced years. While the Millennial generation is less apt to be found in a church pew on any given Sunday, many of the residents now populating senior living communities were raised at a time when church was absolutely central to American life.
“Being a Christian company, we do understand the incredible importance for each individual to be able to experience and express their religious values and rituals, and we do everything we can to provide them opportunities to worship and carry out their customs and practices,” said Regency Senior Living’s Vice President of Business Development, Jeff Clay, who is himself a minister at Grace Church of Catoosa County, Ga.
“When visiting any of our communities and reading the calendar of activities on the wall or receiving a newsletter from a community with the calendar, you will see that Regency has reached out to our local churches to secure volunteers to come to our community such as Pastors from various denominations to preach, teach, lead Bible studies, choir visits with singers accompanied by instruments and many more. We have several communities that have a treasurer, and they take a collection amongst themselves and vote on community programs they want to support, beautification projects for their city, missionary endeavors are just a few things they will do with their funds.”
The Pew Forum survey of religion finds that 74% of adults living in the Southern U.S. attend religious services at least once or twice a month – 41% weekly. Some 71% of Southerners describe themselves as “absolutely certain” God exists.
In the South, 76% belong to the Christian faith, with 34% being evangelical protestants, 17% of which are within the Baptist family. Another 15% are Catholic. Non-Christian faiths (Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, or other faiths) make up 4% in the survey. About 19% described themselves are unaffiliated or non-religious.
Clay said respecting religious beliefs means accommodating different traditions.
“Several of the churches that regularly oversee a service will occasionally have a communion service. We also invite local Catholic Ministers to bring communion for only their parishioners. We celebrate many cultural and religious holy days during the course of the year, and we are very intentional to recognize Hanukah for our Jewish residents. We will have the Jewish Rabbi or their Cantor (the person who leads their congregation is the Psalms) to come and have services or speak. We find both Jewish and Christian residents are eager to learn about each person’s religion,” Clay said. “We usually have a designated area in each of our communities for these services and usually have recognizable symbols like a Cross or a Menorah displayed.”
For many people, religion is not just a matter of spirituality but also a means of social connection. Many Regency residents still attend church services or their pastor will make home-bound visits at communities to let seniors know they are still important to a church family, even if they are no longer able to make the service each week because of poor health or mobility issues.
It could be said that faith is a cornerstone of Regency’s communities and a major source of life and activity for residents.
“Some of our communities will have annual Pastor breakfast meetings and invite our residents’ Pastors, and they will set together for the meeting, and we will honor their ministers,” Clay said. “We have taken our residents to Sunrise services for Easter, invited their grandchildren to come and do Easter Egg Hunts on our property. Many of our communities will invite vendors during Christmas to come and put up a Christmas Tree and decorate it so our community is lit up for the Season.”
Whether it takes place in fun group activities, congregational services, singing hymns together, scripture study, or just prayer in one’s own apartment, expressions of faith are vital to the lives of most Regency residents and seniors in general.
A shared tenet of world religions is the philosophy of mercy and compassion toward others. At Regency, this can be found in the way our employees treat our residents and the way our seniors are valued in respecting their dignity. Regency is pleased to provide our residents with the outreach they need to enjoy a feeling of spiritual peace and wellbeing.
Written by: Steven Stiefel