25 October 2015

The Spirituality of Aging

Renee and Mary Jane: hearts of gold!
For the past 5 months, I’ve had the privilege of accompanying a couple of leaders as they pursue ideas related to ministry with older adults. Nine days ago we gathered a small group of people to listen and explore collaborative trajectories in this.

A collage making exercise to help us
question assumptions related to 
ministry with older adults
As part of our listening time, we engaged in an exercise designed to draw out the “Top 10 Questions of Older Adults.” Here’s what the group came up with in a short period of time:

1. How will I maintain my health? How long do I have?
2. Who am I now?
3. Why am I still here?
4. What’s my legacy? What am I leaving behind?
5. How will I stay active, engaged?
6. Will I be lonely?
7. How do I continue to find meaning in life?
8. Can I maintain my autonomy?
9. How do I deal with grief and loss?
10. What will my quality of life be? What can I afford? Where will I live?

Not bad, I feel, for a first pass.

Group work: Top Ten Questions of Older Adults
One of the benefits of this process is that, overall, we are taking our time about it. We only considered two items of a list of 6 we had in mind and the next meeting will take place in two weeks.

So, we have some time to let the initial brainstorm settle and sift.

In that slower space, new ideas come to mind. For example, I found myself thinking about the issue of regret. I’m still middle-aged but I can already tell that if I do not tend to regret in these “young” years it will bite me in the butt when I am older. And dealing with regret is something I need to be intentional about because…let’s be honest…I’d rather just stick my head in the sand and hope it goes away. It’s not easy to deal with regret so sometimes our natural inclination is to just…ignore it.

But ignored regret does not go away. I can only imagine how many older adults face their twilight years not having dealt with regret adequately. I can think of a few older adults I know personally who wrestle with this. It is truly a ministry of mercy and redemption to help them work through significant questions of regret, I believe.

So, I proposed to the group that we add “regret” to the questions. Perhaps include it with question 9 on the themes of grief and loss. Something like: “How do I deal with grief, loss and regret?”

I am checking it with the group, but so far the response has been positive to include it.

Anyway, in the process of this I also asked the group to look at the questions and sound off on their thoughts, add anything they feel is missing. One of the group members wrote this to me just a little bit ago:

“One question that seems to be missing for me relates to spiritual growth. The question ‘How do I find meaning in life?’ doesn't adequately address the topic for me. As an older adult, I want to confront ageing head-on, with all its challenges and opportunities. I expect to continue to grow spiritually not in spite of age, but as an integral part of ageing. Most of what I read on spirituality and ageing sees faith as a tool for dealing with decline, diminishment and loss. I find this approach very limiting. I want to go deeper into life through faith as I age. I believe that people can grow and change in all stages of life. I want to wrestle with what I encounter through the eyes of faith. I want to share with others the wisdom that comes from this process. This is a journey, a path, a quest that is central to my life at this age. So a central question for me is: ‘How can I grow closer to God, deeper as a person, and share the wisdom I have gained as I navigate the path toward the end of life?’”

I found her insights provocative and insightful so I asked her if I could share them. She graciously agreed and added that much of her thinking is inspired by a book by Robert Weber and Carol Orsborn called The Spirituality of Age.

Sounds like a good book to read!

Stay tuned as we continue this PlayFull journey whereby we engage in conversations and creative exercises designed to help older adults “play from the inside-out.”


PlayFull exists to help people and organizations play from the inside-out. We conduct PlayGroups and PlayDates designed to facilitate holistic growth, learning and discernment. Contact Troy if you'd like to know how PlayFull could be of service to you.

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