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Abstract

Elders throughout the world turn to religious organizations and rely on religious beliefs to cope with both the routine challenges of daily life and the hardships brought on by severe adversity. Hundreds of studies have documented a positive association between health or well-being and religious participation. Yet few have examined religious experiences of the elderly themselves. In-depth consideration of these experiences might shed light on the contribution of religion to individual lives. This study examines religious experiences of women living in poverty in the United States. Results underscore the deep-seated religious commitment of this group. The dominant theme, mentioned more often than any other, was gratitude. Respondents view the Lord as the source of all that is good, and are grateful for life, good fortune, help in times of hardship, and material goods. This view of an all-powerful God contrasts with some respondents' views of themselves as weak or irrelevant. Finally, one-third of respondents who mentioned church attendance reported that ill health or functional limitations restricted their ability to go to church regularly. So, while religion may be good for one's health, good health may facilitate participation in church-related activities.

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