April 14, 2014 – I recently attended a presentation where our Chaplain, the Rev. Jimmie Schwartz, was to speak about the spiritual facts of aging, particularly as it applies to aging in a continuing care retirement community.
He used Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to demonstrate how living in a supportive community can lead to a higher level of spiritual awareness.
Most people, he said, focus on the first two tiers of the hierarchy – physiological and safety needs – which include food, water, shelter, good health and financial security.
Higher up on the hierarchy are spiritual components such as belonging, self-esteem and self-actualization, which develop as we age. Through his pastoral counseling, Schwartz has found that people who live in communities where many of their physiological and safety needs are met can reach a higher level of the hierarchy by engaging in a variety of spiritual tasks:
- Maintain/rediscover meaning and purpose in life
- Keep hope alive
- Transcend circumstances and limitations
- Cope with loss
- Maintain a sense of both connectedness and continuity
- Engage in rituals
- Express faith and religious beliefs
- Remain empowered with a sense of dignity and worth
- Be loved and accepted unconditionally
- Experience being part of a greater community of individuals with similar needs and interest
- Be free to express anger and doubt
- Be open to new insights and personal growth
- Continue to learn
- Sense a nearness of god’s presence and power
- Have the opportunity to experience helpfulness by serving others
- Conduct an ongoing life review resulting in thanksgiving and gratitude
- Experience forgiving and being forgiven
- Be at peace
- Prepare for dying and death
Schwartz made the observation that the more we have, the more we want, and in his experience the more we have, the sadder we are. A move to a retirement community where one can be supported and engaged by peers will allow an older adult to work toward attaining these higher levels of spirituality.
“Our spirits can go where our bodies no longer have any interest in going,” he said. “Moving to a retirement community guarantees that some of the most basic needs will be met and therefore you can rise to a higher level.”
Something to think about as we redefine ourselves and search for purpose as we grow older.
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