Text Size
Spirituality - What’s good for the soul is good for you
01 Jan 2016

What’s good for the soul is good for you, by The Selwyn Foundation

Spirituality is often misinterpreted as religion — it can encompass it, but it doesn’t have to.

Spirituality means something different to everyone, but in the end it’s what helps you make sense of life. Dr Chris Perkins, former director of The Selwyn Centre for Ageing and Spirituality, says, “Spirituality may be expressed through religion, but could involve connections to nature, family, art, craft, music or other creative activities, or a broad notion of God that is not attached to any particular system of belief.”

So what does spirituality have to do with ageing well? Various studies show that spirituality tends to increase as people grow older. Only recently have medical experts really begun looking into the place of spirituality in the lives of older people and what effect it has.

Religious or not, spirituality can help older people with discussions of death and dying – something they may want to come to terms with. Often this is easier to talk about with spiritual advisors, rather than the loved ones they are leaving behind. Other studies show that a sense of spirituality can relieve stress and anxiety, increase wellbeing and that it correlates with lower rates of “frailty”. Some report higher levels of mental and physical health, and even faster recovery from illness. Spirituality can help dementia sufferers hold on to their individuality and sense of self as long as possible, giving comfort and relief through the familiar rituals of prayers and services – even if help is needed to recall the words.

Spirituality is an important part of ageing well and needs to be recognized within residential care or in-home support. The Selwyn Foundation established The Selwyn Centre for Ageing and Spirituality to be New Zealand’s voice for the spiritual needs of older people, and to research, educate and advocate for spirituality in the care of the aged. Despite our Christian heritage, we believe in and work hard at caring for everyone – irrespective of background, ethnicity or faith.

Whatever form it takes – religion, nature or something else entirely – make sure you are able to make time for spirituality in your life.

“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience,” Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, philosopher.

© The Selwyn Foundation 2016.