Being spiritual means different things to different people. For some, it is rooted in a specific religion; for others, it is more about making a conscious effort to be mindful. Holiday Retirement spoke to three religious leaders from three different religions to understand their perspective on what it means to be spiritual.
As individuals age, their definition of spirituality may shift and even sharpen or fade a bit. Regardless of how one may define spirituality, many find it helpful and rejuvenating to start their day spiritually. For example, Father Pat Reidy, C.S.C., a Catholic priest, starts his day by spending 15 minutes in personal prayer, specifically meditating on the readings for the day. He finds that it is a good way to center himself.
Similar to Father Reidy, Reverend Joe Woodson, an ordained Presbyterian minister, starts by making himself physically ready for the day with a good breakfast. He then spends 15-30 minutes reading in the areas of various scriptures from world religions or philosophy.
Rabbi Ray Zwerin, who has since retired but remains active in the Jewish community and now relishes in being a grandparent, shares that when one of his very young grandchildren runs at him full steam yelling “Grandpa!” and leaps into his arms, that’s spiritual. When they sit on a couch with him and ask him to tell them “that story” again, that’s spiritual. However, when not graced with his grandchildren’s presence, Rabbi Zwerin settles for a deep breath on the back porch, a silent sense of appreciation for another lovely day, and a cup of coffee and a bagel until he gets to see his grandchildren again.
For seniors who had a longstanding position within a community or have simply seen their community grow and change over the years, maintaining that community – or sense of community – can be very important. It can also elicit desires to give back to the community.
Father Reidy says the way he gives back is through the Catholic sacraments (Mass, confession, etc.), and by making time for others. For many, creating space to listen and share life really makes a difference.
Giving back to the community can be very personal as well. Reverend Woodson enjoys doing things on a one-to-one basis. He mentions having enjoyed very much driving people to doctor appointments, to visit relatives in nursing homes or the hospital, etc.
For individuals with a deep connection to religion, giving back to the community stems from the religious community. Rabbi Zwerin spent 50 years as a rabbi in Denver, Colo., and served on nearly 20 community boards, several governor’s commissions, and a number of ad hoc projects. When he retired, he compiled and published 100 of his High Holy Day sermons (Forty Years of Wondering), wrote his first novel (Holy Fire), and continues to teach a Torah study class, among other activities.
A common pairing often referenced is the idea of “being spiritual” and living a long healthy life or aging well. This is an interesting pairing when the idea of spirituality can be interpreted in myriad ways, as can the idea of aging well. Father Reidy recommends setting some key priorities: exercise, prayer, and community. He believes that if he can make time for those three activities, then the work naturally flows forth from them.
Similarly, Reverend Woodson credits a long, healthy life and aging well with the physical body functioning well and keeping the mind alert. Getting involved in things that are of service to others and activities that make for a holistic lifestyle can all contribute to aging well. For example, he enjoys music variety, movies, and live theater.
For Rabbi Zwerin, the key to living long and well is genes and luck. Also, throw in a bit of exercise, reduce stress whenever possible, and remain continually grateful for all the blessings that come your way.
At Holiday Retirement, its more than 300 communities around the country understand that not only does spirituality mean different things to different people, but also that seniors benefit from opportunities to practice spirituality. Making time for spirituality, in whatever shape it takes, encourages better, more fulfilling lives for Holiday Retirement residents.
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