Finding Your Faith: Senior Housing and Religion

by Megan Hammons, | April 22, 2017 | Comments

For many seniors, their faith has been an important part of their life for decades. Others look to reconnect to it later in life, as they begin to contemplate all of life’s transitions and what lies beyond. In any case, seniors do not have to give up their spiritual pursuits just because they are moving to a senior care facility. Many communities across the United States have been founded by religious organizations or offer additional special services and considerations for their residents.

Jewish Senior Living

 Approximately 4.2 million American adults identify themselves as actively practicing the Jewish faith, according to the Pew Research Center, although many more claim a Jewish heritage or background. With the help of organizations like the Association of Jewish Aging Services, you can locate a Jewish senior living organization or Jewish-affiliated organization near you (there are more than 95 member communities across the U.S. and Canada and as far away as Israel and Australia). Many of these senior living communities offer an in-house Rabbi, on-site synagogue, Kosher meals, and daily, weekly, and holiday services to fulfill your loved one’s spiritual needs. An added benefit of a Jewish-focused community is a sensitivity to the special concerns that those impacted by the Holocaust may experience. While the number of survivors still living today is decreasing steadily, many survivors and their families struggle with the emotional and physical repercussions.

Catholic Senior Living

The Roman Catholic Church is the largest non-government provider of health care services in the world, with more than 16,000 homes for the elderly worldwide. According to A Place for Mom, there are more than 4,500 Catholic living communities in the U.S. In addition to the typical daily living and healthcare services, these communities often offer special programs such as daily Holy Mass, Confession, Holy Communion for those unable to attend Mass, 24-hour chapels, and transportation to a local Catholic church. Additionally, many offer events, classes, and workshops on topics such as spirituality, life transitions, and scripture. The Catholic faith has very specific teachings regarding the end of life and the dignity of all humans; living in a Catholic-focused community with easy access to a priest can be especially helpful and comforting during these important times.

senior housing and religion

Protestant Senior Living

Almost half of all Americans who identify as Christians also profess attendance at a variety of churches considered Protestant, such as Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, Pentecostal, and others. Many protestant religious organizations operate senior living communities, although – just as with most Jewish and Catholic communities – they welcome seniors of all faiths. Depending on the group, the community may offer special observances such as Vespers, in addition to regular religious services, prayer services, Bible study, and celebrations for Christian holidays. Many of these communities will also offer transportation to various local churches for their residents.

All Faiths Senior Living 

While most of the communities operated by specific religious organizations accept seniors of all faiths, other organizations actively look to attract and serve a wide range of religions, offering various services, events, and connections to multiple local faith groups. For example, Atria Senior Living is large nationwide chain of senior communities not affiliated with any church and offers events and considerations for residents of all religious persuasions. During the holidays especially, they offer a wide range of regular services from multiple faith groups, helping its residents connect to others of the same spiritual perspective. Additionally, a growing trend in senior living is being labeled as affinity group communities, meaning a unique community centered on a specific set of interests of a smaller group of people. Seniors with specific spiritual practices, including those of religions less-practiced in the United States, may find a community of like-minded residents like at the ShantiNiketan in Tavares, Fla. This planned 55-plus community is designed for Indian-Americans and offers amenities including yoga, an on-site Ashram, vegetarian food, and more.

Ensuring that you or your loved one will be surrounded by support for your spiritual beliefs is an important element to consider when searching for senior housing. Many of the top online senior housing advisors can help you incorporate this into your search. Be sure to check out user reviews beforehand when choosing from the numerous free senior advisors – like these reviews for A Place for Mom – to ensure that you are making the most of your time and efforts in finding the right senior community, assisted living facility, or nursing home. The perfect facility will not only meet your loved ones physical needs, but emotional and spiritual needs as well.

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