Note: This post is not intended to promote or discourage any type of religious believe. We found the research interesting and felt readers would find it interesting regardless of the religions, or lack of, religious beliefs.
Previous research has shown religion to have a positive effect on older peoples’ lives.
Older people who practice religion tend to be more physically healthier than those who did not. The reason why is because older people who practice solitary spiritual pursuits are engaged in purposeful activities that give them inner satisfaction.
The idea that a personal relationship with a higher being through prayer promotes successful aging is an example of selective optimization with compensation. This theory says that successful aging is dependent on a person selecting a specific task important to them, and then completing that task by optimizing the skills they still have while compensating for the skills they no longer have.
The classic textbook example illustrates an older man who wants to keep his driver’s license but knows he can no longer see at night. What does he do? He only drives during the day and finds someone to drive him around at night. Now back to the prayer example; by SELECTING prayer as a means to maintain religious identity, older adults are OPTIMIZING their current abilities while COMPENSATING that they are no longer able to be as physically involved with their church as they use to be.
Studies have found that a prerequisite to these benefits is an existing belief in a higher being. Sometimes people dealing with the end stages of life seek out religion as a way to come to terms with death. This has been shows to have little impact, as individuals were not show to receive the emotional and physical benefits of prayer unless they has an existing belief in the who/what they are praying to.
The role of meditation
It should also be noted that meditation has many of the same benefits that prayer has. People who practice meditation are physically healthier than those who do not. It is probably because meditation helps people deal with a stress in a more healthy manner.
Both practices–prayer and meditation–help people deal with stress and anxiety. Prayer teaches people to give their worries to a higher being, meditation teaches people to let their worries just go. What’s the secret to successful aging? To age successfully you need engage in meaningful activities that bring your inner satisfaction that also reduce your stress.
Photo credit: Kris_B
About the Author: Ryan Malone is the founder of InsideElder Care and author of the ByFamilies, For Families Guide to Assisted Living. He regularly speaks and advises families about how to improve their aging loved one’s quality of life. Ryan is also the president of SmartBug Media, a content marketing agency that helps companies increase leads, customers and influence. You can read more from Ryan on the SmartBug Media blog or follow him on Twitter.