Creating a more spiritual path on the journey of ageing
Life, and therefore ageing, is comparable to a journey. Fundamentally, one we make on our own. Yet gaining insights from other people, cultures and even different times can make the process smoother and more engaging.
Ageing in not just a biological process — it is also very much a cultural one. The array of influences involved can have a bearing especially in places and spaces, where older people are venerated and treasured. Alternatively, in some cases, not.
Different cultures have their own attitudes and practices around ageing and including death. These have a huge impact on individual’s experiences of getting older. This is true of many Asian, Pacific, some European and even Native American culture. Some talk of the spirit world as being part of the afterlife. In reality, spiritual connections can be an important link to the present. Insights from other people, and times, can help define, and refine, your own orientation. Learning from people who have accumulated insight and experience, also known as wisdom, can be anything from merely interesting to significantly life changing.
The power of spiritual influences
As people become more open minded to meaningful influences regardless of origin, cross cultural offerings can be ‘borrowed’ to add to one’s own repertoire of techniques, or thinking, aligned with ageing well. If nothing else, experiencing and exposing oneself to different ways of life and thought patterns can be a journey in itself.
Evidence supports the notion that people are not necessarily moving out of their comfort zone in embracing new and enriching experiences over more ascribed or traditional practices. Not that these are abandoned, rather they are undergoing a process of reflection and re-evaluation. In many Western cultures, including this country, those identifying themselves as being spiritual but not religious is rising.
New Zealand is fortunate to have the rich traditions of Maori and Pacific Island cultures that value the input, and importance, of older people. They have an acceptance of how spirituality is a natural and important part of life. Along with these spheres of influence, New Zealand is now home to over 213 different ethnic groups with worldviews that will further enrich ageing and wellbeing.
Practical pathways to wellbeing
The Selwyn Institute, in association with the University of Auckland and Mercy Hospice, recently hosted a series of presentations by Professor Holly Nelson-Becker. She is an acknowledged expert in social gerontology and a Hartford Faculty Scholar in Geriatric Social Work.
Her work includes investigating the pathways to resilience and well-being in older adults. She has explored spirituality, end-of-life, and diverse cultural expressions related to social care including loss, grief and the quality of dying.