Spirituality and Aging

Helen Lavretsky

Disclosures

Aging Health. 2010;6(6):749-769. 

In This Article

Spirituality & the Attitudes Toward Death & Dying

The continuing advances of medical technology have altered attitudes toward dying. Dying is no longer a part of human daily consciousness or an accepted final event of life. Kübler-Ross insisted that the dying stage in our life can be experienced as the most profound event of our life experience. Dying begins when the facts of life are finally recognized, communicated and accepted.[118]

Most of the research on dying and death is recent, and has fallen into two categories: probing emotions or attitudes surrounding death, and investigations exploring the experience of dying itself. Most elderly people recognize that their own death is close. Older people tend to think about dying and death more than any other age group.[119] Most researchers consider the fear of dying as the most prevalent emotion. The findings about the relationship of age and fear of dying are mixed.[120,121] Other emotions linked to death and dying are hope and the continuity of hope,[122] the feeling of loss (e.g., of control, competence, independence, people or dreams for the future),[123] loneliness,[124] dignity/integrity,[125] forgiveness[126] and love.[127] As a society, we shy away from death and the idea of termination. In recent years, research has led people toward greater awareness and an increase of interest in the dying process and death. Spirituality and storytelling can be used as resources in aging successfully and in dying given the constraints of the modern-day western culture.[128]

Developing interventions will raise awareness of the dying process and, ultimately, result in a more peaceful experience. These interventions will likely improve the experience of death and dying for the patient and their families in various medical settings, such as palliative care, hospice, long-term care and primary care settings.[129,130]

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