I whole heartedly believe that “Aging is a spiritual journey” and also believe that we need a spirituality of aging that encompasses both the declines and ascents of aging. In her book Winter Grace Kathleen Fischer says, “A spirituality of aging must help us find a way to turn losses into gains, to learn how the stripping process which often accompanies aging can be a gradual entrance into freedom and new life. . .”
The belief that growth and new life is possible even into advanced old age is what keeps me working at finding ways to open new doors for older adults and the people who serve them in a variety of settings. Through e-newsletters, seminars and workshops, the Center’s web site, Facebook and Twitter I seek to encourage and provide resources for the late life spiritual journey.
While I’m doing this, I am continually invited to think about my own aging journey. When I started working with older adults full time in 1998 I was struck by Henri Nouwen’s words (my paraphrase) that we can only be present and helpful in someone else’s aging journey as we are present and open to our own. I took this as a personal challenge to pay attention to my own aging and to be present as I experienced the changes of moving through my 50s and 60s. I’ve found seeking to be present to, sympathetic with, and open to the losses and gains of my aging has opened pathways of exploration for my journey and hopefully, for the journey of others.
I took a Celtic Spirituality trip in 2010 and have used the concepts and images from that trip to speak to the resources of the Celtic Christian tradition for those who are aging. On a recent trip to Italy I was struck by the creativity that reverberates through Italian life and have been pondering ways to awaken my own and others’ creativity as they age. I have realized as a person who likes to write and to think that I needed to be more present to my body in this journey of aging—and am working on practices of movement and singing to energize this ongoing journey. And in a day-long workshop done with director emeritus of the Center on “Caring for Body, Mind and Spirit” I was able to share some of my beginning learnings and reflections on this oft neglected part of the spiritual journey.
And it’s been increasingly fun to realize that one of my gifts and passions is pulling together what might seem to be unrelated things into something new. As visual internet resources become more prevalent as ways to communicate and encourage this spiritual journey of aging, I’ve enjoyed pulling together quotes, music, and photos to provide some new mediums of thought and encouragement. (An example can be found here.) And I realized after moving to this position that it allows me to continue to do what I’ve done in all my working life—develop educational and relational programs that meet needs and encourage growth.
And so this is what I’m passionate about—finding new ways and places to encourage the ongoing spiritual journey of aging. So that all of us can become our truest and best selves as we serve the aging and navigate our own aging journey.
What are you passionate about? Do your passions inform your work with older adults? How are you encouraging them to live passionate and engaged lives?