The Role of Spirituality in Aging Well
Several studies have shown that as we grow older, we benefit from thinking about higher things such as beauty, the meaning of life, the things that connect us, our place in the world—in short, the quality that is often called “spirituality.”
As we age, the reality and inevitability of the end of life grows more present. The pace of life can slow down, allowing for more time and leisure to reflect on life’s experiences. Wisdom, life experience, the movement toward completing life—all these combine to bring a rich spiritual possibility to our final decades. For most people, aging successfully will involve some attention to spiritual questions and spiritual life.
What does it mean to nurture your spirit?
Spiritual reality is defined in very different words, depending on one’s religious or philosophical tradition. In all traditions, however, to pay attention to the realm of the spiritual is to pay attention to that which connects us – for example, our relationships or the natural world. Spiritual reality connects us to those who have gone before us and those who will come after. Nurturing our spirit means taking the time and effort to pay attention, to think, to begin articulating the meaning of what we have known. There are a variety of ways to do this, both within and outside of religious communities.
Spirituality and religious communities
If you are currently part of a religious community, use the resources your community offers to explore the spiritual questions that are important to you. If your worship tradition sustains you, try to attend worship regularly.
If you find yourself needing a more individual approach to spirituality than groups afford, make an appointment with your religious leader. He or she may know of reading material that will be helpful to you, or may prescribe a spiritual discipline. Sometimes just one-on-one conversation is what you need to point you where you want to go.
Many people consider themselves to be spiritual, but not religious. For one reason or another, traditional religious communities don’t meet their needs. That doesn’t mean they are without spiritual resources.
If the spiritual task of later life is coming to see life as a whole, assessing the meaning and value of one’s own life, then there are a number of ways to approach this task outside of religious communities. Your local bookstore or public library will carry a variety of titles that approach spiritual reality from many perspectives. Learn about groups of people that meet in your area to discuss the topics that are important to you. Some people find practices such as yoga and meditation to be meaningful and fulfilling. Spending time in nature, participating in the arts, and volunteering are other ways to connect with the world and people around us.
Spirituality can build resilience
Taking care of ourselves spiritually can help us approach life more positively and build resilience that can help us through life’s difficulties. Paying attention to our spiritual selves and our own unique spiritual needs helps us live every stage of life the best we can.