This paper explores the role of spirituality in late life in both eastern and western cultures. Narratives of Okinawan elders are used to illustrate their role in maintaining and transmitting spiritually significant practices to younger generations. In addition, the beneficial effects of spirituality are discussed as well as the process of spiritual development. Finally, a framework for assessing and addressing spiritual issues in late life is introduced.
Although the terms religion and spirituality are sometimes used interchangeably, they represent distinct concepts. As defined by Ortiz and Langer (2002), spirituality often includes religious commitments but extends beyond formal religious beliefs. In addition, ordinary life events can be charged with spiritual meaning. Religion, on the other hand, is a dimension of spirituality in its expressive form and can be public, private, or both.
O’Connell (1994) suggests elders are more likely to incorporate religious values into life meaning because they have had more time to explore religious traditions, internalize spiritual wisdom, observe the impact of religious and spiritual experiences in the lives of family and friends, and experience religion as an internal source of support as opposed to an external form of control.
It is essential that health and human service providers as well as others who care for elders consider their religious preferences and spiritual needs. The Spiritual Assessment Protocol, developed by Ortiz and Langer (2002), can be used in a variety of settings. Canda and Furman (2010) also provide guidance regarding spiritual assessment, including a framework for “implicit spiritual assessment” (p. 264).
|Keywords:||Elders, Spirituality, Religion, Assessment|
Associate Professor, Department of Social Work, College of Nursing and Health Professions, Arkansas State University, State University, Arkansas, USA