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Religious Senior Living: Communities for all Faiths

Jeff Anderson
By Jeff AndersonJanuary 2, 2014
Religious Senior Living Communities for All Religions

Whatever one’s belief system, whether Catholic, one of the many Protestant denominations, Jewish, Muslim, or another faith, religion can be a big part of a person’s identity. It’s important to empower seniors who live at senior communities to maintain the spiritual component of their lives.

Religious Senior Living Communities for All Religions

Today’s communities accommodate resident of all faiths, whether at communities dedicated to caring for seniors of a particular faith, or at secular communities that provide services for residents of all faiths, seniors can maintain their spiritual traditions after a move to senior living.

There has been a long tradition of senior communities run by churches for their members that continues to this day. What’s more, even senior communities that aren’t affiliated with or dedicated to any particular religion work hard to accommodate residents of all faiths.

Jewish Senior Living

About 1 in 50 Americans are Jewish according to the Pew Research Religion and Life Project, so there is a small but significant niche market for Jewish senior living. There are many Jewish oriented senior communities throughout the country, particular in areas that have high Jewish populations such as the Northeastern states and Southeast Florida. According to the Assocation of Jewish Aging Services, “there are approximately 100 non-profit Jewish senior living organizations and about 130 Jewish-sponsored or affiliated communities in the U.S.” These communities serve kosher food, celebrate Jewish holy days and offer Jewish services and observe the Sabbath (Shabbat). One of the many communities in our network that cater to practitioners of Judaism is Reutlinger Community for Jewish Living, formerly known as the “Home for Jewish Parents.” In addition to a resident Rabbi, kosher food, and the honoring of Jewish holidays and traditions, the community is even home to its own Jewish Heritage Museum. Many Jewish senior communities have holocaust survivors as their residents, and have to deal with caring for residents who have difficulties such as and flashbacks to that horrible time; with dementia care residents being particular vulnerable to such post-traumatic stress.

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While many communities are Jewish oriented, a large number of them have a good population of people of other faiths as well, and, while accommodating Jewish residents and their traditions, have non-denominational management.

Catholic Senior Living

Catholic senior living is no new concept either. According to the Pew Research study, nearly one in four Americans identifies as Catholic, so it’s natural there would be a wealth of catholic oriented communities across the U.S. While a retirement home opened at Mount Angel Benedictine Abbey in 1966 was billed itself as “the nation’s first Catholic retirement home”, catholic bodies have been caring for the aged and disabled, particularly those of low means, for much longer.

Today, Catholic communities thrive and are dotted across the U.S. One of many is St. George Village, a continuing care retirement community in Roswell, Georgia. The community is “is located on 20 beautifully landscaped acres on the campus of the St. Peter Chanel Catholic Church and the schools of Queen of Angels and Blessed Trinity High”. In additional to all the amenities you might expect from an upscale retirement community, St. George Village offers mass and communion daily. Milwaukee Catholic Home is another great example of a Catholic senior community. It is steeped in the Catholic tradition and offers Catholic mass and honors Catholic holy days, but at the same time welcomes residents of all faiths.These are just a couple of many possible examples. Catholic senior living are widespread across the U.S. – with Catholic nursing homes being especially common.

Protestant Senior Living

There are many denominations of Protestantism. More than half of Americans identify themselves as an adherents of a Protestant denomination such as Lutheran, Baptist, Methodist, Anglican, Presbyterian, Quakerism and others. As with Jewish communities and communities associated with the Catholic Church, there is a significant number of communities affiliated with the many churches that make of the Protestant wing of Christianity. For example, Presbyterian Senior Communities of South Carolina operates Clinton Presbyterian Community in the town of Clinton, among three other “faith-based” retirement communities they operate. Similar to other communities mentioned, it is not strictly for Presbyterian Church Members, describes itself as a “compassionate Christian community for seniors of all faiths.”  This a fairly common thread across religious senior communities researched for this article: They may have a majority of residents of a particular faith, while welcoming residents of other faiths too. Among other services, the small chain of Presbyterian Senior Communities offers nightly “Vespers Services” in addition to the honoring of and participation in many church ceremonies, rituals and activities.

Other Protestant senior communities are similar in this regard, in that they welcome seniors of all spiritual backgrounds, but none-the-less cater to a specific denomination. For example our partner community, Lutheran Villages of Ashland in Ashland, Ohio is operated by Lutheran Social Services but welcomes all seniors.

Senior Living for People of All Faiths

Senior communities don’t need to be run by a church or specialize in case for residents of a particular accommodate the religious beliefs of their residents. We spoke with Ronda Watson, Vice President of Engage Life and Culinary Services at Atria Senior Living – large nationwide chain of senior communities not affiliated with any church. They work to provide for residents of all religious persuasions. She described the Atria communities strive to include people of all belief systems during the holidays:

“At Atria Guilderland, they strive to incorporate all residents and their religious celebrations during the holidays. They hold Sunday drives to Christ the King and Voorheesville Methodist churches and host a Catholic in-service every Wednesday. They also hold a Protestant and Baptist service once a month in the community. They also include Jewish services during the holidays and in the new year, monthly, for those residents who practice or want to learn more about the Jewish religion. During this time of year, they find that the residents crave their religious community within the building and are also open to learning about other traditions.”

Watson also spoke of how one community incorporated Hanukkah into their holiday festivities in a very personal way,”As an example, Atria Virginia Beach recently celebrated Hanukah and opened the celebration to all residents and families. They also provided an educational ceremony led by a clinical chaplain, during which a son of a Jewish resident participated and lit candles. It was very important for him to have this personal celebration with his father.”

While Watson was speaking of two particular Atria communities, but other Atria communities, and other major senior communities for that matter, are similarly accommodating in regard to the spirituality and religious traditions of their residents.

Finding Communities for Your Faith

If you are looking for a religious based senior community, contact A Place for Mom online or call us at 877-369-9161. We can help you find communities that meet your religious needs.

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Jeff Anderson
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Jeff Anderson

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