Q: My mother sold her home after my father passed away. She relocated to a smaller apartment in a nearby community and is having trouble meeting people. She was once very active in her church so I suggested she find a new congregation to join. Her strange comment was she didn’t need religion she needed friends. Is there a way of encouraging her in a more positive way?
A: Research indicates a strong social support system can have a positive impact on people as they age. It is also important to acknowledge this can be a challenge for older adults as they experience a decline in social contacts due to retirement, deaths of family members and acquaintances, institutionalization of those in their age group and relocation.
There are numerous outlets for establishing new relationships for older adults such as senior centers, adult education programs, garden clubs and athletic organizations specifically organized for this age group. For many individuals, attending church goes beyond the spiritual guidance they may receive. Being part of a congregation (regardless of the faith) provides an opportunity to engage with neighbors and other members of the community and can give them a sense of belonging.
Churches of many faiths view their role in nourishing the body as well as the soul. Over the years services have been expanded to include parish nurse ministries, monthly meals open to all members of the community, telephone reassurance programs, food and clothing pantries, and visitation ministries. The services not only can benefit a parishioner directly but also exposes them to the possibility of becoming a volunteer. Lending a hand to someone less fortunate provides a newfound purpose in life.
Gently encourage your mother to visit a few of the churches in her town. Focus on all the opportunities she may encounter through the church. Remember she may still be grieving the loss of her husband and leaving her home, adjustment may take some time.
Are you struggling caring for an older adult or having difficulty locating resources? Our staff is available for a no-cost consultation, set up at your convenience, to help guide you through your caregiving experience. For more details or to schedule an appointment, please call 800-892-0890.
Do you have a question? We encourage inquiries and comments from our readers. Please direct your correspondence to firstname.lastname@example.org or Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley, Inc., Age Information Department, 280 Merrimack Street, Suite 400, Lawrence, MA 01843. Joan Hatem-Roy is the CEO of Elder Services.