Spirituality and Aging

Helen Lavretsky


Aging Health. 2010;6(6):749-769. 

In This Article

Spiritual Development & Aging

Spirituality serves several purposes in different stages of life, which is similar to the concept of different needs and conflicts associated with different ages, as stated in Erikson's eight stages of human development (1963).[49] In addition, Fowler recognized six stages of faith, and also recognized the fact that individual development may stop at any stage:[50,51]

  • Intuitive–projective faith (ages 2–7 years): when child becomes aware of God;

  • Mythic–literal faith (ages 7–12 years): when family specified perspectives and meanings of morals and God are internalized;

  • Synthetic–conventional faith (adolescence onward): when faith is accepted without critical evaluation;

  • Individuative–reflective faith: when an individuals own belief is critically examined and reconstructed;

  • Conjunctive faith (midlife and beyond): when disillusionment with that belief system sets in, and one is caught between it and openness to other religious traditions;

  • Universalizing faith (late life): brings oneness with the power of being or divinity, willingness to promote justice in the world and fellowship with others, regardless of their faith stage or religious tradition.

Koenig questioned Fowler's approach of applying cognitive stages of faith development to older adults with low levels of education or physical/cognitive dysfunction.[52] Regardless of differences in the theories of faith development, most emphasize faith development in late life after completion of all developmental cognitive stages. Spirituality is a lifelong developmental task, lasting until death.[53]


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