Aging and Spirituality

Contemplative awareness and mystical experience are master processes that can serve as a spiritual gyroscope for the spiritual journey. With these processes well practiced, we are in a good position to take advantage of the freedoms of aging — retirement, the empty nest, lack of social demands that we conform to specific roles. In many ways, aging in today’s post-industrial society is like improvisational theater. We have the freedom to decide which I we will bring to our actions — the personal I with its desires, fears, and agendas, or the transpersonal I with its openness and clarity. This freedom is both exciting and scary. It is exciting because it is life on the frontiers of consciousness. It is scary because we have to pay attention and fully engage the dance of life and we’re not sure we can do it. After 45 years of interviewing aging people in all walks of life, I am sure of at least one thing. The overwhelming majority of us can do it.

Spiritual journeying is continuing to pay attention to life and to nurturing our capacities for spiritual experiences, including a vivid present, higher levels of consciousness, and our interconnectedness with everything we encounter. Most people prefer to journey in the company of others, and many are part of small groups that support one another in their spiritual life. This support takes many forms, such as reading and discussion, engaging in spiritual practices together, compassionate listening, and discussing how spirituality affects life decisions and life experience.


About Robert Atchley

Robert C. Atchley is a distinguished professor of gerontology emeritus at Miami University, OH, where he also served as the director of the Scripps Gerontology Center. Atchley was previously a professor and chair of the Department of Gerontology at the Naropa University, in Boulder, CO, and is the author of Social Forces and Aging (published by Wadsworth) and of Continuity and Adaptation in Aging and Spirituality and Aging, both published by Johns Hopkins

One Response to “Aging and Spirituality”

  1. Thanks for your input. I am at the stage in life you describe. It reminds me of a quote from a favorite book of mine. “Man knows much of health and sanity, but of true happiness he has realized little”