Religious congregations as social services providers for older adults

Ram A. Cnaan, Stephanie C. Boddie, Jennifer J. Kang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A large proportion of older adults are affiliated with congregations. The literature suggests that, in general, religious participation among the older adults enhances their quality of life and provides a network of social care. In this article, we explored the relevant literature on organized religion and social support for older adults. Based on a census study of congregations in Philadelphia (N = 1,393), we documented the following: (1) the number of congregations serving older adults, (2) the types of services provided, and (3) the number of beneficiaries. The study also identified the organizational factors that predict the provision of congregation-based services for older adults. The findings suggest that serving older adults is not a top priority for most congregations. Most senior programs are small and often informal. Approximately half (48%) of the congregations do not provide a formal social service. However, those congregations that are more likely to serve older adults have larger budgets, more members over 65-years-old, and a moderate political orientation. We recommend that congrega tions, social service providers, and older adults explore ways to maximizc this underutilized resource of congregational services to meet the needs ol the increasing numher ol older adults.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)105-130
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Gerontological Social Work
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 2005


  • Community care
  • Congregations
  • Elderly
  • Faith-based social services
  • Social support
  • Spirituality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nursing (miscellaneous)
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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