Aging is a spiritual journey.

A Note from the Director

Welcome to California Lutheran Homes Center for Spirituality and Aging. Now in its second decade, the Center offers programs and resources for aging services professionals and faith communities. The Center’s tag-line, “Aging is a spiritual journey,” reflects our core belief that spirituality is the essential piece of every person’s aging process. We seek to assist those who support older adults as they navigate the terrain of aging.

What do we mean by spirituality? Spirituality can include religious faith and practices, but can also be experienced and understood in non-religious ways. A definition that I like is:

Spirituality is the aspect of humanity that refers to the way individuals seek and express meaning and purpose and the way they experience their connectedness to the moment, to self, to others, to nature and to the significant or sacred (emphasis mine).*

I like this definition because it speaks to two essential processes of the spiritual journey of aging—continuing to find meaning and purpose in living and staying connected and engaged with oneself, others, and the larger world. This definition also lends itself to some basic questions we can seek to answer with the older adults we serve: Can they articulate what brings them meaning and purpose? If they can, how can we support those activities or beliefs? If they can’t, are there experiences or relationships that we could invite them to that would help them find an answer to that question? And are there ways in the programs that we develop and the services we offer to help elders continue to build new and meaningful connections with others, themselves and the wider world?

When we view our services to older adults through the lenses of “meaning and purpose” and “connectedness” we can bring the spiritual journey of aging into everything we do. This definition also helps us to take spirituality out of the realm of the ambiguous and amorphous into the realm of practical practices and programs.

And because, I believe that all of us who work with older adults need to be attending to our own spiritual journey of aging, it also provides us with some questions for self-reflection. What is bringing meaning and purpose to my life? And how am I connecting to the moment, to self, to others, to nature and to the significant or sacred? As we wrestle with these questions for ourselves and with those we serve, we will find all sorts of creative ways to support the spiritual journey of aging.

* (Definition from Consensus Conference: Improving the Quality of Spiritual Care as a Dimension of Palliative Care, held Feb. 17-18, 2009, Pasadena, CA. Sponsored by the Archstone Foundation.)