Cassie Steele- OCP News Service – 26/1/18
Loneliness is a big problem for seniors across the globe. According to the Global Age Watch Index, a survey measuring quality of life for people aged 60 and over, India ranked 71 out of 96 countries, with many seniors lacing savings, a solid health infrastructure, and a strong social safety net. The population of older Indians has grown at twice the rate of the population over the past few years, yet sadly, many feel isolated. Younger generations are often able to help seniors out with technology (including smartphones and computers, which enable seniors to communicate on social media and Skype), but often, the demands of modern life mean that they cannot give seniors enough of what they most need: their loved one’s time, and company.
How Can the Church Help?
Religion can play an important role in increasing happiness and wellbeing. One study showed that out of a plethora of pastimes (including volunteering and fundraising), the only activity that provided sustained happiness, was attending religious service.
Additional research has shown that those who regularly attend religious service, are as a rule, happier. The reasons postulated by include the fact that the church provides a strong sense of community support for those who would otherwise feel lonely.
Sharing one’s faith with new and old friends, moreover, strengthens the idea that we are connected to the rest of humanity through God, and that we are not the only ones who suffer. At Church, we sometimes meet people with bigger problems than our own. Often, we find that we, too, can be an important source of support for them.
Religious belief can help the elderly in an additional way; even though God’s ways are mysterious, simply knowing He exists can help us weather life’s storms and bear losses (including the death of loved ones) with greater strength. The belief in a Heaven where we can reunite with loved ones we have lost, can be uplifting when we feel alone.
Sharing our Love with Pets
In addition to forming part of the Church, adopting a pet can help fight loneliness, too. Studies have shown that having a dog or cat can help seniors in a number of ways. For one, having a dog in particular encourages seniors to enjoy more exercise in the Great Outdoors, which has been found to reduce stress levels and increase vitality. Moreover, studies have shown that pets can help human beings fight anxiety and depression by providing company, unconditional love, and affection.
Finally, it must be remembered that Christ espoused the importance of kindness to the most vulnerable; those who love pets know that their dog or cat can at once be very vulnerable and a great source of strength and support.
If you have an older relative who is feeling lonely, encourage them to meet others and form a strong network of friends in the Church. Not only will they feel happier; but also more likely to take part in additional social occasions, support others in tough times, and realise how much value they can have to those in need. For companionship and a good reason to get out and about, meanwhile, ask them if they would be interested in a pet dog or cat, considered by many people as part of the family.