Having put forward the case that spirituality is an integral part in any ageing well activity or initiative, what is the best way to elevate the subject matter to wider attention?
A leader in the field is the Australian Meaningful Ageing organisation, the national body for all things to do with spiritual care and ageing.
Their mission is to enable access to high quality pastoral and spiritual care for all older people in the country.
The orientation they adopt is this: Spirituality is integral to, but not confined by, religion and faith. It is about what gives purpose to our lives. It is about our sources of meaning and hope, which in turn is intimately related to our connectedness to ourselves, to others and to the world. There is now a large body of emerging evidence showing that pastoral and spiritual care is an essential part of holistic care for everyone, particularly older people including, importantly, those with dementia.
From their experience many working in aged care who understand the value of pastoral and spiritual care want to have the conversations around spirituality. These tend to stay at a superficial level because they don’t feel they have the knowledge or skills to respond at a deeper level. Nor necessarily in ways that are meaningful to those they are caring for.
On that basis they developed what is believed to be the world’s first Guidelines for spiritual care in the context of ageing care. These have been formulated to recognize that the spiritual ‘dimension’ is an important aspect to cater for diversity and individual needs.
Going forward with Guidelines
As a world first the Australian Meaningful Ageing Guidelines currently represent international best practice and, as such, provide a useful starting point for the process. It has been argued that the Australian Meaningful Ageing Guidelines would be an appropriate starting point for opening discussions across Aotearoa New Zealand toward development of a set relevant to our country and its peoples.
Step 1 Finding out what matters:
Some key resources and relationships are already in place to work toward the development process and accompanying fieldwork. This step would be to source input from older people, their family/whānau; their carers/representatives; aged care providers; front line staff and volunteers; experts; national, regional, and local health and social service organisations; spiritual providers/practitioners; and anyone else relevant per individual elder consulted. This would then help to define and refine what should be covered in an Aotearoa New Zealand set of Guidelines.
Step 2 Audit of what currently exists:
What resources are currently available (essential this audit gives voice to elders lived experience) to satisfy their spiritual requirements? How are these accessed and how do they apply in the context of ageing well?
Step 3 What spirituality might include:
It must be recognized that the subject of Meaningful Ageing could be ‘uncomfortable’ for those new to the notion of spirituality. What does it include or cover and is it just another way of proselytizing? Defining what the concept means in the context of ageing well would be required. A starting point is Gerontologist Wilfred Spiritual Assessment in HealthCare Practice (2013) which found that definitions cover, as per the international definition of health and wellbeing, notions of both ‘art’ and ‘science’. Information gathered from Step 1 will also be useful in authenticating appropriate notions with elder’s actual lived experiences.
Step 4 Creating the framework:
As a working and information gathering document and process a possible framework would need to cover:
- Key definitions and terms of reference.
- Overlap and intersection of traditional religious care and broader pastoral/spiritual care.
- Terms of Reference for the development process and The Guidelines philosophy and orientation.