What may seem as religiosity to many, may translate into spirituality for others. There is no specific demarcation between the two concepts, and they are often used interchangeably. Studies have proven that older people are comparatively more religious than today's younger generation. However, this does not conclude or allude that people become more religious as they age. There are always exceptions, which include people who are atheists or agnostic, and who will continue to remain so for the rest of their lives. Everything happens for a reason, and similarly a not so spiritual person may seek divine solace due to transition in his/her life. There are several factors that need to be considered as to why people become more religious with age. Let's dwell upon these aspects in more detail.
Old Age and Religion
Incompatibility With Modernity
Older adults often find it very hard to relate to the ideologies dominant of today's generation. Things are forever changing, there is lesser empathy and increasing sense of despair among people. Very few are able to cope and blend with ease. There are internal conflicts that constantly badger people's conscience, making them averse, critical, and withdrawn against the collected human action. Older people especially are hardest hit, as they become outdated and less in demand, because of the present generation's ever-shrinking family values. Children and grandchildren do not give parents their deserved due respect, care, and affection. They simply do not have the time for such so-called trivial things. Parents feel left out, lonely, and vulnerable. In such a situation, they seek the company of religion and the hope that they will find like-minded companions to share their pain with. Prayer helps heal them and encourages them to cheer up and become stronger as individuals.
Prayer Represents Their Inherent Upbringing
Not all aged people become religious. There isn't a specific age fixed to an individual's belief in god. A person's faith depends a lot on their upbringing and whether religion was an integral part of their lives when they were growing up. In which case, such individuals are bound to continue with this legacy throughout their lives. The only exception being if they undergo severe trauma and loss, and thus lose faith in worship. Similarly, people who had no such upbringing in earlier years, may realize the lack of this positive influence in their lives, and seek religious healing, as they age.
Personal Loss and Grievances
The loss of a loved one, the death of spouse or a child, can make people seek solace and refuge through prayer. Prayer has a soothing effect on our hearts and makes us regain hope, when it seems as if all hope is lost. Age related disabilities and health problems make individuals want to join church groups and other religious gatherings. Here, they find the sense of bonhomie among the other members of the community. They find people they can associate and connect with, which gives them the chance to develop strong ties of support and compassion. However, there are also cases where religious people tend to lose faith as they grow older, having witnessed and undergone personal loss and trauma. They feel angry and dejected for the treatment meted upon them by the divine. In such cases, the individual lives in a constant state of suffering, for being punished even though they lived their lives in a pious manner. They often lose faith and withdraw deeper into their own solitude.
Fear of Death and Afterlife
Since death is inevitable and unstoppable, aging redefines our perspective towards religion. People who believe in the afterlife constantly worry about their religiosity within this lifetime. They worry about their past, present, and future deeds, as well as the sins they have committed in their past. Transforming into an ardent believer gives people the impetus to cleanse themselves of their wrongdoings. The acceptance of this inevitability allows older people to live the rest of their lives in grace and positivity.
Greater Faith With Educational Empowerment
As per a study conducted by sociologist Philip Schwadel of the University of Nebraska - Lincoln, it has been deduced that people become more spiritual when they gain greater educational empowerment. In such a scenario, people tend to develop a deeper understanding of what spirituality means to them. They perceive it to be a higher power, which need not specifically refer to God per se. According to the study, educated people are more likely to read the Bible and other holy scriptures, and are more likely to have a rather cosmopolitan approach to faith. They strongly believe that you do not have to be religious to be spiritual. Educated people often question traditional aspects of faith and approve of a more flexible approach for expressing their beliefs.
Greater Social Inequality Leads to Greater Religiosity
People who have inadequate incomes and have to undergo continuous strife to make ends meet are often the ones who seek the healing influence of prayer. They pray with the hope that they too will be redeemed of this suffering and given their due for their hard work. Study shows that people are less religious in countries where all the social and economic aspirations of the people are met. While in countries where there are severe demarcations between the rich and the poor, the level of religiosity hikes up, among the comparatively poorer section of the society.
Therefore, when the economic security and expectations of the people are balanced and satiated, the level of faith declines. The reason for this phenomenon is because they do not feel the need to pray to a higher power when everything needed for existence is within their ambit of control. Countries that suffer from escalating rates of unemployment, hunger, political turmoil, war, terrorism, debt, and corruption, also see a distinct rise in the number of believers among their citizens.
Greater Social Standing and Community Contribution
With age, the aspirations of an individual undergoes a transformation. They become more mature and thus have more realistic expectations from life. Older people are more community conscious and are more likely to do good deeds that will contribute towards the benefit of society as a whole. They are more likely to participate in political activities that will bring development. They also have personal goals which harbor the desire to be respected by their immediate social setting. Older people are more likely to join prayer groups and participate in social and community service, which will encourage their younger counterparts to participate and inculcate the spirit of social service.
There is another theory to this assumption, which states that people become more conservative and religious as and when there is rapid development and progress in ideologies. However, many may altogether disagree with this statement. Faith as a whole is a matter of personal choice, and cannot and must not be enforced upon others. This may perhaps be another reason why the younger generation has very few takers to religiosity, and prefer being more agnostic and spiritual in their outlook.