In today’s society, many seek ways to live the best life possible. As we age, we tend to get more spiritual, some may refer to aging in itself as a spiritual journey. According to Lavretsky, “In the US general population, religious participation has always been prominent, with over 90% of Americans believing in God or a higher power, 90% praying, 67–75% praying daily, 69% being members of a church or synagogue, 60% considering religion to be very important in their lives and 82% acknowledging the need for spiritual growth. (p. 2).
For those who are spiritual, religious participation means putting faith into action and doing what the Bible recommends, which is to go help other and share the gospel. In this paper, I will analyze how spirituality and church participation affect older adult’s quality of life. I will provide a critical analysis of how older adults engage in a religious house of worship, present an understanding of the policies that govern the Christian church institution, the policies and mission statement of the institution itself and how this affects older adults quality of life. I will also research supporting articles to support my research topic. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention defines health quality of life as “an ndividual’s or a group’s perceived physical and mental health over time. ” (p. 1).
This definition is important because quality is perceived by the individual and not by others. This is the definition that will be used for this research paper whenever quality of life is mentioned. According to Demello 1982, “Gerontologists often define spirituality with a description that came from the 1971 White House Conference on Aging: “the basic value around which all other values are focused, the central philosophy of life – whether religious, antireligious, or nonreligious which guides a person’s conduct, the supernatural and nonmaterial dimensions of human nature” (Moberg, 1971).
While this definition mentions familiar terms and concepts that most people would agree relate to spirituality, currently there is no real consensus on a standardized meaning of the term. ” (p. 1). For my research, I visited River of Life church in the local community of Tampa, Florida who has a high percentage of older adults as part of its’ congregation. During my visits, I observed and asked questions about the role of older adults in the church.
River of Life church Motto is, “Every Need Is Met Where The River Flows. ” Their mission statement is to know Christ intimately, to present the gospel globally, to equip the saints for ministry, to live victoriously. They are a non-denominational Christian church who believe in one true God, that the bible is God’s word, the deity of Jesus Christ, that all have sinned and can be saved, receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit, spiritual gifts and that Jesus is coming again to judge us. This church also has a community market where they invite church members and members of the ommunity to come out and buy or sell fruits and vegetables in their parking lot.
According to Demello 1982, “Look around most congregations at worship and witness the courage and persistence of the aged men and women who arrive with walkers and oxygen tanks, often transported by other older people less encumbered by health problems. Sharing pews with noisy babies, children with crayons, bored teens, and distracted parents, they sing and pray, sit in silence, listen to scripture and sermons, rise and sit as they are able, share the Eucharist if Christian, and exit in friendly conversation with fellow travellers. (p. 1).
While visiting River of Life church, I was greeted at the door by a friendly older adult and another greeter who seem to be in his fifties. I was warmly welcomed and directed into the nursey to drop off my two year old son where I was greeted by two elderly women and one was sitting down in a wheelchair. They were very friendly and I asked them questions pertaining to their role in the church and how that affect their quality of life and they explained that they were the “grandma’s” of the church and that they were happy I decided to visit and that they would take good care of my son.
They went on to say that their role at the church improves their quality of life because they love children and the fact that they get to take care of them on Sunday’s means all the world to them and they were also happy to share the love of Jesus with others. I was then directed to another area of the church to drop off my ten-year-old daughter. There we were met by a young adult and encouraged to fill out their visitor’s card and drop it in the offering bucket. Next, I was directed into the sanctuary where I found a seat towards the back where I could observe everything.
On the stage was a mixture of both older adults and younger adults. They sang worship songs and took up tithes and offerings. The congregation was made up of people of all ages and physical abilities, off to the side were two people in wheelchairs, one older adult and who seem to be a teenager. On stage, the singing stopped and an older woman who was the pastor’s wife according to their website started professing to the congregation saying “God had called us to do what we need to do and that we should not wait any longer, if he call us to prophesy then prophesy and if he call us to teach then teach. (Observation, July 2016).
After the music stopped a second time, a man went up and stared talking about the meaning of Independence Day. He asked all those who served in the armed forces to stand up so we could applaud them and went on to say that every year they give someone in the congregation a flag to show appreciation to them for serving in the United States military. He called a name and an older adult male went up front and took the flag. He was asked to tell his story to the congregation and he talked about his time in the Navy and about going to different places on his ship.
He noted that his ship was docked in another State and is now being used as a museum, which made him proud to be a United States Citizen. After his speech was over, an older man who is the pastor according to the church web site went on stage and started preaching. He preached in historical manner with an overhead projector and laser pointer. He had information to support his message such as maps and statistics. At the end of his preaching, he started talking about politics. He said he did not want to talk about politics, but he want to encourage people to vote.
He went on to say that as the body of Christ, we are supposed to be voting for the party that represents the teachings of the bible. For example, we know what the bible says about abortion so we need to vote for candidate who believe in God given principles. The church went into an uproar and he dismissed the congregation. I went to pick up my son and the two older women told me how well he did and that he made a picture for me of Jesus walking on the water. One went on to say he was such a little ham and that she just wanted to eat him up because he was so cute. I expressed my ratitude to them for taking care of him and went on to pick up my daughter.
As I was picking her up, the young adults in the class invited us to bible school and told us she had a great time. I was holding the artwork that my two year old son did in my hand when she stopped her conversation and started talking about this picture. She said he did not quite get it right because Jesus was placed in the boat instead of on the water. I told her who gets it right at two years old, smiled and thanked her for taking care of my daughter. As I was leaving, the older adult who reeted us when I first got there told us to visit the web site and look up their farmer market where they sell fruits and vegetables once a month in the parking lot.
My analysis of my observation is that River of life church caters to the senior population. I have never seen a church with such a high participation of older adults. There are older adult volunteers in every area of the church. Seniors were helping and contributing and doing what they love. The two women in the nursery explained that they love children and the fact that they get to take care of them on Sundays means all the world to them. This atmosphere provide