Faith-based Retirement Communities: Caring for Body, Mind, and Spirit

May 11, 2023 | Life at Park Place

A faith-based community can provide a sense of connectedness where common values and understanding are woven into each day.

The concepts of wellness and positive aging are central to all retirement communities today. These add to a wide range of factors to consider when choosing a community. As you work through your list, it helps to start with what matters most to you now. If faith and religion are an important part of your life, then it may help to explore living in a faith-based community.

The facts are, older adults have a higher level of religious participation than those in any other age group. Pew Research Center reports that 65% of survey respondents 65 years and older said that religion and belief are very important in their life. So it is no surprise that about 80% of retirement communities are owned and operated by not-for-profit organizations; of these, about 75% are run by faith-based organizations. Most are affiliated with the Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist or Presbyterian churches.

This means you will have plenty of retirement community options from which to choose to support your spiritual and religious needs. But with all that choice come more questions.

What is a faith-based retirement community, and is it different than any other

A faith-based retirement community is affiliated with a specific faith or spiritual path and inspired by religious beliefs. Like all retirement communities, faith-based communities support physical and social needs. The best possible care will be a high priority. A welcoming and comfortable residence, great dining options and plenty of enriching wellness programs should be included.

Key differences: In a faith-based community, supporting spiritual needs is an integral part of the community’s mission and informs how they operate and approach their work. While living in a faith-based community means something different to each resident and many enjoy the religious and spiritual traditions that are offered through optional programs, for some residents being in a faith-based community is not about a specific religion. It may be more about wanting to care for body, mind, and spirit. A faith-based community can provide a sense of connectedness where common values and understanding are based on shared faith woven into each day.

Benefits of a faith-based community

Residents often report that faith-based communities support important personal elements such as values, inclusivity and positivity. They take comfort in knowing they are in a community with neighbors who share these similar elements. So while communities may be affiliated with a specific religion, it is important to note that residents often come from a wide range of religious (and non-religious) backgrounds since inclusion, acceptance and support are core tenants of many faiths. Because many faith-based communities have a direct affiliation with nearby houses of worship, convenience and familiarity are available. This means when personal support is needed, it is likely that you will have someone to support you that knows you well, for they already will minister and volunteer within your campus. It means you not only have plenty of opportunities to connect with them, but they will also connect with you right where you live.

So, whether you want to rekindle your connection to, or be more involved with faith, or simply appreciate the comfort and support offered in these environs, living in a faith-based community makes it easy to connect, teach, pray and celebrate through well-loved traditions, or provide and receive support when it is needed most.

What should you ask?

You should ask if there is an affiliation with a specific faith and if it is current and ongoing. Sometimes a community with a historical affiliation is no longer directly associated with a particular faith. Some other questions to ask include:

– What faiths are present on the campus?
– Which holy days are observed?
– Are services held conveniently on campus?
– Which services are held on campus? When, where, and how often?
– Are there prayer meetings? Bible study groups? Group discussions?
– Is there a visiting chaplain or an on-site chaplain?
– Are staff affiliated with the church? If so, in what way?
– Are there any restrictions?
– What volunteer opportunities are possible?
– Are intergenerational services and programs offered?
– Are art and music part of celebrations or worship?
– Is it possible to continue to stay connected to my local church?
– Is help supplied to get to and from local services?

How to choose a faith-based community

Because faith, belief and spirituality are highly personal for each individual, you should view each community through your own lens as you interpret, understand and evaluate each you visit.

Talk to people you know, look online, and explore not-for-profit communities with an acknowledged affiliation. A good place to start is with your own church leadership and membership. These trusted advisors often can supply insight and direction that will help
you begin your research.

The opportunity to live with others who share your values—such as kindness, compassion, and acceptance—is at the heart of why people choose to live in a faith-based community. If this appeals to you, then perhaps this is what you have been looking for, too. Once you have done your homework, plan to visit the faith-based communities which are personally or spiritually most appealing to you.