|Abstract or Summary
- The term, spirituality, as used in this study, refers
to that part of our lives that has the deepest meaning,
that which nurtures each of us and moves us toward wholeness.
It is the basis for which we live out our lives,
following our own truths with honesty and commitment.
Hopefully, in the process of aging we mature spiritually,
using experiences collected and processed over a lifetime
and learning from them what is most important in leading a
For this study, a group of 10 women aged 60-87 years
was examined, using in-depth interviews to determine those
aspects of their lives that contributed to their spiritual
growth and to see how they found meaning as they matured
over their lifetimes. Furthermore, each woman was asked to
discuss what gives her life the most meaning and purpose
The women were selected for their apparent spiritual
maturity, as observed by those who know them. The results
of the study are organized around themes as they relate to
different periods of the life span, starting with childhood
and ending in elderhood. Early memories of the women were
centered around family and friends, then expanded to include
school, career, and in most cases marriage and children.
Some have grandchildren.
The family of origin was a critical beginning for each
woman. Most recalled a happy and loving childhood, and
those that did not, seem to have worked through those parts
of their childhood relationships and experiences that have
troubled them. Over their life spans, the women faced
turning points or crises that caused them to grow in new
ways, not only to survive, but to find new strength, courage,
and meaning. As the women became older adults, their
losses became more numerous. They have developed ways to
grow spiritually despite these multiple losses and diminishments
that continue into the present.
Role models have played a meaningful part in each
woman's life. Throughout childhood, adulthood, and old
age, the women have looked to others who taught them various
social and coping skills which contributed to the fullness
in their lives. They developed such traits as loving
others, caring for those in need, and helping friends and
family. The role models fostered independence and development
of strengths and guided the women to become who they
are today. These women in turn serve as role models for
The acceptance of death as a part of life lends a
peacefulness in old age for the women. Their families and
friends continue to play a key role in their everyday
lives, along with faith and religious practices, God or a
Supreme Being, prayer, meditation, reading, writing, learning
new things, helping and listening to others, and service
Giving and receiving love is basic in their lives.
The women also feel that love and helping others are essential
components for a healthy humanity.
The women are grateful for life's many gifts. Although
old age brings hardships, losses, and diminishments,
they find that life has been generous to them, and they
continue to have hope for the future. Their spiritual
strength continues to grow and expand, accompanied by a new
sense of freedom that was not present in their younger
years. Contrary to messages received from society, these
women have found that there are benefits in growing old.