Spirituality and aging among women Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/v118rj716

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  • 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 fulfilling life. 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 today. 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 others. 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 to community. 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.
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