As we age, the role of spirituality changes in a person’s life. We have a clear feeling of the passing of time. Even more, we have a clear sense of the limits of time, and the end of life. Time is more precious. Liberty Lutheran is honored to provide elders with compassionate care at our senior communities and recognizes the importance for residents to be able to practice their differing religious faiths.
-By Rev. Linda Hatcher, Artman Chaplain
For those who practice a particular faith, it is vitally important that they are afforded ways to continue to have that a part of their lives when they transition to a senior community like Artman in Ambler. It is core to giving them a sense of meaning as they view themselves, their relationship to God and questions regarding end of life.
I meet with every resident for a “spiritual assessment” upon admission. This tells me about their past religious practice, if it is still important to them, and what religious services and practices they would find helpful. For example, for Jewish residents, I can put them on the list for Pre Shabbat services, high holiday services and offer a Jewish prayer book. For Catholics, we have rosaries available and a Eucharistic Minister will bring them communion. We also will make arrangements if they would to attend Mass. I let them know that they are welcome to receive communion or a blessing from me at Sunday morning ecumenical services. They are also welcome to attend Bible Studies. Protestants are invited to Sunday morning services and Bible Study. All residents are informed when faith services are held for those who desire to attend. With the residents’ permission, I continually reach out to their community churches and synagogues in an effort to maintain those connections for them.
We have developed an atmosphere here where we can learn from each other and respect each other’s religious beliefs. Our residents know that as the Artman Chaplain I respect all of their religious practices and will do all I can to help them to continue to participate in them. If a resident is not particularly religious – I respect that choice as well. There is no “right” or “wrong” spiritual path at Artman.
-By Rabbi Anne Feibelman, Paul’s Run
Paul’s Run Retirement Community in Northeast Philadelphia welcomes residents of all religious practices and in fact, a considerable number of residents are of Jewish faith. We are blessed at Paul’s Run to have an environment that respects and actively supports an inclusive Jewish community in so many aspects of life. The elders can join worship, education, social and entertainment events. The chaplaincy department also officiates at Jewish funerals.
Judaism is both a cultural identity and a religious tradition. People come from many different levels of observance, different countries, different levels of Hebrew knowledge, but when 50 elders sit together on Friday night and chant the traditional Hebrew blessing over lighting the candles, 5,000 years of shared history is contained in every word we sing. This shared experience every Friday night creates a sense of community, connecting people with their past, with each other and with the divine. Spirituality also provides comfort and meaning in the face of change and loss. It can be a powerful aid in finding acceptance and peace with the challenges of aging.
In addition to worship services, we celebrate the Jewish holidays and yearly remembrance days such Holocaust Remembrance Day and Israel Independence Day. The Dining Services offer familiar comfort foods like matzo ball soup, Passover seders, Hanukah potato pancakes. The rhythm of familiar celebrations and rituals can infuse holiness into an ordinary moment. Spiritual life brings continuity and an awareness of shared identity. A highpoint of the week is always hearing the Torah (Hebrew Bible scroll) read from the podium by one of our residents, Simon Sheinson. People volunteer to lead parts in the service as a way of being actively involved.
Paul’s Run provides educational and social programming, such as the Yiddish Club and study groups. Last year, 16 elders studied and celebrated a Bat Mitzvah coming-of-age ritual, traditionally celebrated at age 13. The seniors ranged in age from 85 to 100 years old. The Bat Mitzvah class also formed a connection with a class of 5th graders at a local synagogue. These opportunities create new connections while encouraging people to share their stories. In addition to group activities, there are also times of private prayers, blessings or talking with a chaplain. Last month, we held a Jewish wedding in the chapel. In February, we are planning a baby-naming ceremony for a great-granddaughter. One of the residents joked last week that she never attended synagogue until she moved into a Lutheran Retirement Community!
By recognizing and supporting the unique physical, emotional, social and spiritual needs of older adults, residents live life with meaning and purpose at Liberty Lutheran’s senior communities.