by Sherry Christiansen

Religion and spirituality are important aspects in the lives of many people, particularly for seniors. As we age, our attention is oftentimes less involved with the outside world, and more internally focused. Studies have found that over 90% of elderly people identify themselves as being religious or spiritual. Scientists have discovered many benefits of religious and spiritual practice for older adults. One such study found that when seniors are homebound, it may negatively impact their spirituality.

A study of elderly Jewish adults in New York, found that the level of depression and loneliness was proportional to how often a person gets out to be with others, and to their connection/relationship with family members. The study went on to conclude that when a person is depressed and lonely, it can negatively impact spirituality.

Jewish Institute for Pastoral Care Study

Researchers observed a group of 118 Jewish seniors at the Jewish Institute for Pastoral Care in New York. The study participants were asked to respond to a questionnaire (containing psychological tests) to evaluate for depression, loneliness and spirituality. Three groups in the study ended up having a significantly higher rate of loneliness and depression.

In the study, depression and loneliness were higher for those who were unable to get out of the house on a regular basis. Spirituality, exhibited by having a sense of meaning or purpose in life, was negatively impacted by depression and loneliness.

The study discovered that getting out of the house regularly, and maintaining family connections, are important in maintaining a seniors’ sense of well-being and purpose in life. Getting out regularly, in turn, influences loneliness, isolation and depression—factors that have all been found in clinical studies to shorten the lifespan.

Tips to Prevent Isolation for Housebound Seniors

For seniors who are unable to get out of the house, the internet can be a very useful tool to help overcome the isolation of living alone, and to connect spiritually and socially.

Here are some tips for integrating social and spiritual connections into the daily routine:

  1. Sign up for online services such as Kindle or Audible, to gain access to a wide variety of spiritual books-some even come with downloadable workbooks. If you have trouble reading, Audible is a great way to listen to books on tape.
  2. Sign up for an online video chat services such as SKYPE. Ask your grandchild, a young acquaintance (such as a home health nurse or caregiver) or a younger neighbor, to teach you how to use SKYPE (if you don’t know how to use it). You can keep in contact with relatives or friends using online video chat, without ever having to leave the house.
  3. Sign up for email and Facebook accounts. Keeping in touch with email, and using Facebook is a great way to be able to access family photos, and videos as well as keeping up with the latest vacations, school programs and other family news. Again, if you don’t know how to use Facebook, ask a younger person to teach you.
  4. If you are religious, reach out and contact your church or synagogue to ask for a visit from the rabbi/minister. You can also ask the church to announce to members that you would like to have visitors if any members can stop by your home.
  5. Surf the net, you’ll be surprised at how many online resources there are available when it comes to spiritualty for just about anyone. Here are some examples:

The resources listed in this article represent a very minute sample of what all is available on the internet, when it comes to spiritual podcasts, videos, and online retreats and webinars. With a commitment to being open to new things, and a short learning curve, seniors who live alone can literally have the world at their fingertips!

Rabbi Springer, C, Weaver, A, Rabbi Linderblatt, J.D., Rabbi Naditch, B, Rabbi Newman, A, Rabbi Siritsky, N…VandeCreek, L.. (2003). Spirituality, depression, and loneliness among Jewish seniors residing in New York City. Journal of Pastoral Care & Counseling