By Sister Mary Lou Mitchell
Everyone has an inner spirit, that vital energy that animates our humanity as we move through life.
Seniors that keep their inner spirit alive enjoy a better quality of life, even as their bodies or minds may be diminishing.
Helping your elder tend to spirit is easy to do, with such activities as:
• Rituals from childhood, such as attending mass, praying together or participating in an annual family tradition to engage their memory.
• A touch on the arm or hand to elicit a smile or engage their eyes.
• Familiar music they can sing along with or that soothes them.
• Time in nature when it’s warm outside, and bringing in holiday decorations or fresh flowers when it’s too cold to go out.
Spiritual health in senior communities
Tending an elder’s spirit validates their humanity. To find a senior living community that will nourish their spiritual health, look for:
• Genuine hospitality. Feeling welcomed by everyone you encounter is a sign that the community could be a good fit for your loved one. It also makes the transition easier and more comfortable for everyone.
• Pastoral care. Faith-based communities have dedicated staff that support the diverse spiritual needs and requests of their residents and families on a daily basis and in times of special need.
The pastoral care team at St. Ann’s Community addresses the spiritual and worship needs of residents of all faiths. Catholic tradition is celebrated, and interfaith activities allow residents to experience the commonality of different faith traditions. For example, St. Ann’s Community recently welcomed a Buddhist monk who created a sand mandala (a spiritual symbol of harmony and peace) in the lobby while sharing the teachings of his faith.
• Mindfulness culture. Is everyone in the organization mindful of being present with you and your loved one? The pastoral care team at St. Ann’s Community promotes a mindfulness culture through ongoing education to ensure that compassion, love, and mercy are part of every interaction.
Faith and family are important to elders and have a significant impact on their quality of life. Honoring your elders’ faith traditions enables them to be fully alive throughout all their days and to live on forever in the hearts and minds of family and friends.
Mary Lou Mitchell, Sister of St. Joseph, PhD., RN, is the director of pastoral care for St. Ann’s Community, which offers a full continuum of care for seniors. You can reach her at 585-697-6446 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.stannscommunity.com.