I had moderate difficulty picking a topic that would expand both of the aspects of aging that our two classes have been studying over the course of this summer. After much debate with myself, and the wise council of my elders, I have decided to take a moderate dip into the connections between ‘spirituality’ and ‘successful aging’ and make a tie in with how policy is affecting what dictates ‘successful aging’ and ‘spirituality’ itself. Then I will provide an example of a current program/facility that is providing exactly what the researchers I reference are calling for. Aging, Spirituality, and Policy
Defining the terms
According to Atchley, et al. (as referenced in Sadler & Biggs, 2006), “a person’s spirituality may be broadly defined as the personal quest for meaning the purpose in life that goes beyond the material and temporal dimensions of human existence, and can include both beliefs and practice.” Many state that spirituality and religion are one in the same, however Sadler & Biggs (2006) state that there are definite differences in how our culture recognizes the two. Spirituality can be a rather vague term. If you are religious, ask yourself are you spiritual? You more than likely will answer yes. However, if you are spiritual and were asked if you were religious – one could say “no.” Being religious usually connotates some sort of organization of beliefs, or codes and practices based on tradition (Sadler & Biggs, 2006). Spirituality definitely can become pretty ambiguous when it hits the public level of how one interacts with their environment (i.e. a person could never proclaim there is a god, yet claim to be spiritual, or a person could state they are religious yet never consciously refer to their inner spirituality on moral decisions). For my own purposes, when I refer to spirituality and/or religion, I am referring to the “innate human search for meaning and purpose in life” (Sadler & Biggs, 2006; Boswell, Kahana, & Dillworth-Anderson, 2006). As has been referenced previously in our class, the definition of aging and aging successfully quite possibility is even more ambiguous than that of spirituality/ religiosity. If you were asked how you would define successful aging, how would you? Could you? This is a difficult question for me. Sadler & Biggs (2006) shed some light on why this may be difficult for us: “measurement of successful aging has predominately relied on information available in survey data…little research has asked older people themselves for their definitions”. What really struck me was when Sadler & Biggs mentioned that most researchers exclude older adults living in institutionalized settings from their data gathering. Granted, a majority of older adults do not live in such a setting; however I believe it would be an interesting subset to research and explore. Is the stigma that surrounds those facilities really true? What researchers currently are going off of for their research, and what we have as reading material on this subject, is largely being sourced by static questions. With static questions like “On a scale from one to ten, how healthy are you?” it is not difficult to understand how there is a great amount of emotional, sociological, and psychological (and spiritual) aspects of each answer that are missing. In the time that Sadler and Biggs were writing their article, the way researchers were doing their research on successful aging was wrong in the sense that they weren’t getting the whole story. The only way you could get the whole story, the whole truth, would be to do a case study of a few individuals over the course of several years of aging. One could include components of health, social status, physical activity as self-report and open-ended questions would, but one would also document surrounding observations of each activity or change in health. The tiniest change in lifestyle can leave a ripple effect across the remainder of an older adult’s life. I believe that successful...
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