Spirituality and Aging

Helen Lavretsky


Aging Health. 2010;6(6):749-769. 

In This Article

Spirituality & Successful Aging

The notion that a spiritual perspective becomes increasingly important with aging adds a positive spin to the search for a 'positive death' or a 'spiritual journey'.[33] The concept of successful aging, which emerged from the 1990s McArthur Research Network on Successful Aging, brought about an interest in positive aging. Spirituality and religious participation are highly correlated with positive successful aging, as much as diet, exercise, mental stimulation, self-efficacy and social connectedness, stimulating an interest in the understanding of why spirituality has such positive effects on the quality of life and end of life. Crowther et al. proposed that positive spirituality is defined by developing an internalized relationship with the sacred and transcendent world that is not bound by race, ethnicity, economics or class, and promotes the wellness and welfare of the self and others.[34] This attitude is more positive, and promotes self-enhancing behaviors and beliefs. Rogers claims that the universality of religion is based upon its social function during the later years of life, such as helping face inevitable losses and impending death, while also finding and maintaining meaningfulness of life.[35] Older adults who are more religious tend to demonstrate greater wellbeing than those who are not.[36] However, Seifert warns against the sentiment of assuming that spirituality automatically increases with age.[37] Additionally, MacKinlay implicitly addresses this concern when she observes:[38]

"Successful aging is essentially a wellness model of aging and, as defined, isolates older people with disabilities, physical or mental, outside the model."

In those individuals, the success of their aging should be measured according to spiritual traditions of humankind that respect the role of an elder in the society.[6] In summary, spirituality appears to play an important and adaptive role in aging that seems to lead to a better quality of life and life satisfaction, as well as longevity in the older practitioners.


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