Spirituality and ageing: implications for the care and support of older people

Categories: Care.

The report provides an excellent overview of research and policy related to spirituality and ageing, and contains a broad list of references on the topic.

The authors of the report point to the increase in longevity in Scotland, and the implications of this for an increase in frailty, chronic illnesses and other age-related conditions. They suggest that ageing is a journey which includes a spiritual dimension, and that a focus on the spiritual care of the elderly is one way to achieve the person-centred and dignified care enshrined in social and healthcare policy documents.  

The report introduces the concept of spirituality, acknowledging its complexity and suggesting that spirituality could either revolve around belief in a divine presence, or focus on personal belief or one’s inner world.

According to the report, drivers for incorporating spiritual care into practice include: the NHS, the care sector, palliative care, dementia care, and the World Health Organization (WHO).

The authors explore the links between person-centred care, dignity and spiritual care, concluding that these three concepts share an underlying commitment to the importance of the person and their inner world as central to the provision of care.

The report provides a review of the research into spirituality, health and ageing. This is preceded by an overview of the theoretical basis for this empirical research.

Themes emerging from the research include: debates around the definition of spirituality and research into the health benefits of spiritual interventions.

In terms of providing spiritual care for older people, the authors of the report suggest that processes such as ‘life review’ and ‘meaning-making’ are important end-of-life events that involve the spirituality of the person.

The authors explore the following activities to support spiritual care:

  • spiritual reminiscence
  • spiritual history
  • life review / life story
  • activities involving music or song
  • worship / prayer / ritual
  • presence / being there
  • listening.

The authors conclude that the ageing population requires continued person-centred healthcare support to assist them in ageing well. They argue that spiritual care is an important part of person-centred care, and that this can be implemented with or without adherence to a particular religion, but rather that it involves taking “the time, attention and listening to support individuals to find meaning and purpose in their lives.”

Read the full report and access the author’s list of references on the IRISS website

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