Below is the link to an expanded version of the PowerPoint presentation I used in an interactive discussion with a church group about spiritual growth in older age. It seems to me that there are certain inevitabilities about aging that transcend societies and cultures: a shortening of time perspective, the accumulated lifetime experience, and eventual physical decline . How we respond to these inevitabilities will be affected by our world view. In our culture another inevitability makes the experience of aging more harrowing, and that is pervasive and unconscious ageism.
These inevitabilities invite us to undertake a number of developmental tasks to respond and adapt. The tasks include self-esteem regulation, managing our foreshortened time span, coming to terms with decline, dealing with dependence, facing death, relating to unfinished business, and leaving a legacy. Inherent in these challenges are opportunities for spiritual growth, which our limited time perspective calls for us to use. We can learn to be more patient, to be less petty, to let go of old hurts and resentments, to fully appreciate the present moment, to take on social roles that befit us as elders with a lifetime of experience, to view ourselves as a part of a whole, and much more. Our need for spiritual stamina increases as we age, as does our ability to share our hard-won spiritual achievements with others.
For each task, I have suggested some opportunities, some tools for exploring them, and ideas for sharing each person’s journey with others. Finally, several resources are listed that can assist with a number of these challenges.
Sue Sweeney, Chair, Gerontology Department, Madonna University