For many seniors, faith is a way of life. Whether that faith is one that has provided sustenance through the decades or is more of a recent discovery, spiritual life tends to take priority as the end of physical life draws nearer.
It’s not surprising, then, that the number of faith based retirement communities has grown in recent times. According to Ziegler, an investment bank based in Chicago, about 80 percent of continuing care retirement communities are owned and operated by nonprofit organizations. Of those, about three-quarters are run by faith based organizations, most of which are affiliated with Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist, or Presbyterian churches.
We connected with Donna Mack Shenk, director of pastoral ministries at Landis Homes in Lititz, PA, to explore the rise of faith based senior living and how these communities help seniors keep their spiritual lives vibrant.
Christian Living Communities
While most senior living communities accommodate the beliefs of residents through church services and religious celebrations, faith based communities take spiritual commitment to the next level.
“A faith based community is guided by values that also are faith based,” explains Shenk. At Landis Homes, for example, residents and team members live by the guiding values of joy, compassion, integrity, stewardship, and community (or JCISC – “Jesus Christ in Street Clothes”). “Residents offer their time and gifts to support the pastoral services programs in many ways,” she says.
Many Landis residents serve their community through active participation in worship services. Seniors are invited to preach, teach, facilitate prayer groups and Bible studies, direct or sing in a choir, play a musical instrument, work the A/V system, escort other residents to worship services, and more.
“Residents come with many gifts to offer, and having an environment that invites them to continue to use those gifts allows them to stay vibrant spiritually, emotionally, intellectually, and physically,” says Shenk.
Finding Your Place in a Faith Based Community
Of course, faith based senior living is not just for Protestants, Catholics, and Jews; those without a religious background are welcome in faith based retirement communities as well. “At Landis Homes, residents do not need to ascribe to a particular belief system in order to be part of this community,” says Shenk. “We value learning from each other.”
That’s why, in addition to offering worship services from the Mennonite/Anabaptist perspectives, Landis invites speakers from other groups, and holds a monthly mass for those who wish to participate, adds Larry Guengerich, director of communications and church relations for Landis Communities.
No matter where life has taken you, retirement can be the perfect time to spark or rekindle the flames of your faith.
“As persons enter the later stage of life, there is more awareness and perhaps time and reason for spiritual awareness,” says Shenk. “I believe persons are drawn to an environment that will support them in this stage of their life, and find faith based communities to be such a place.”
CHIME IN: How do faith based communities help you keep your spiritual life vibrant?