The 6th International Conference continued a series of international Conferences which began in Canberra in 2000. All have explored aspects of Ageing and Spirituality, and until the 2015 Conference, all have been held in countries of the British Commonwealth - Australia, New Zealand, England and Scotland. The 5th International Conference, held in Edinburgh in 2013, explored the ways that Resilience and Creativity support the spiritual lives of older people.
The International Conferences attract both those with academic interests and expertise in this discipline from around the world, as well as those with more practical experience through involvement in the aging services industry or as informal care partners. The Conferences include a mixture of keynote speakers, workshops and papers of interest to those coming from a faith based approach and to those approaching spirituality from a secular viewpoint.
The 6th International Conference was the first to be held in the United States. Our goal was to continue the tradition of including voices from many parts of the world, voices from the domains of the academic and the aging services, voices from various faith traditions and voices representing the "spiritual, but not religious." Thank you to everyone who joined us!
The 6th International Conference on Ageing and Spirituality
October 4 - 7, 2015
Theme: Paradox and Promise in the Pilgrimage of Aging
Many cultures and religions have “pilgrimages” to sacred places as part of their tradition. A pilgrimage is more than arriving at a destination; it includes the process of the journey—the delays, the inconveniences, the joys, the company in which one travels. A pilgrimage also incorporates what we learn about ourselves, how we are able to give and receive help, and the ways we find meaning and hope whether we are in the darkest valley or on the highest mountain. Thinking about aging as a pilgrimage invites us to be intentional about this journey we will take. It is an invitation to live with the paradoxes of our strengths, the wisdom we’ve gained, and the increasing awareness of limitations and finitude.
The aging experience itself is paradoxical. On the one hand we know what we know, we know who we are with ever greater clarity, we know what we have given and what we wish to continue to give to the world. On the other hand, our energy is not at the level it once was, and we are increasingly limited by the reality of living in an aging body. While we may have more “free” time than we’ve had since childhood, discerning how and where to spend our time and energy is often perplexing.
We are living longer almost everywhere in the world. For years those of us in the field of aging services have been asking, “What does this mean?” It has been viewed as catastrophe: there are going to be too many old people, putting pressure on limited resources, overwhelming our caregiving systems. It has been seen as an opportunity: never before have so many people, with so much accumulated wisdom, been present with us. How we can tap into this resource for the betterment of our planet?
The 6th International Conference on Ageing and Spirituality took shape around the theme “The Paradox and Promise of the Pilgrimage of Aging,” and we encourage those who see this journey as inherently spiritual to consider together what the realm of spirituality and religion bring to the current, world-wide discussion on aging. What paradigms of thought and belief, spiritual practices, and programs can we offer to provide nurture and sustenance for those on the pilgrimage of aging? How can we access and share the wisdom of those who have taken this pilgrimage before us, and how do we journey together on this 21st century pilgrimage, making music, finding meaning, and being full of hope in spite of losses and limitations?