Spiritual Growth and Care in the Fourth Age of Life

Spiritual Growth and Care in the Fourth Age of Life

Spiritual Growth and Care in the Fourth Age of Life

Spiritual Growth and Care in the Fourth Age of Life


Spiritual Growth and Care in the Fourth Age of Life explores the spiritual dimension of aging and investigates the role of pastoral and spiritual care in helping the frail elderly cope with end-of-life issues.

Focusing on the experience of nursing home residents and anecdotes gathered in interviews, MacKinlay sensitively presents the struggles facing older people in need of care, such as loss of independence and privacy. Her findings show that despite ill health, loneliness and depression, older people near the end of their lives find meaning and support in (re)discovering their spirituality, and that this is not just the experience of those in care facilities, but of older people more generally. The book includes a useful chapter on spiritual assessment, providing carers with information on how to recognize the need for care.

This book will be of interest to nurses, care workers, pastoral support professionals and anyone else working with older people.


I remember whenI was about ten years of age,my grandmother had the first of a series of strokes. At the time of her first stroke, I was staying with my grandparents on their farm. Later, my grandfather couldn’t continue to care for her and work the farm too, so she came to stay at our place. When my mother couldn’t care for her any more at home, Gran was admitted to a nursing home. Visiting her was my first experience of aged care. It was a large old home, converted to a number of rooms for the residents. Some of the rooms were large with a number of elderly people in each room. the room my gran was in was a single room. I would sometimes visit her and help feed her. This experience was an important one for me, as by age 13, I had decided that I would become a nurse.

Through my more than 40 years of nursing, I have worked in a variety of nursing specialities, but I have always been drawn back to my roots of caring about, and for, elderly people. For a number of these years, I have taught nurses.

Ageing is not all one. the term ‘old’ as understood currently by many in western society covers a range of perhaps some 50 years. This would have been almost a lifetime for many people not long ago. in the short time since The Spiritual Dimension of Ageing (MacKinlay 2001a) was published there has been a proliferation in writing in this field. So, why add yet another book?

Life is a spiritual journey. This journey does not end when an elderly person can no longer live independently. the study that this book is based on follows from the first major study that culminated in The Spiritual Dimension of Ageing. When I completed the earlier study it seemed that I was just beginning. I had searched the literature, I had collected the data, I had examined the data using grounded theory, I had extracted the themes and constructed a model of spiritual tasks of ageing. But did that model work or was it only valid for the group of independent older adults I had interviewed in that first study? the spiritual dimension seemed important to this group of older people, but was the same true for the frailer group of elderly people resident in nursing homes or receiving care at home? What is it like living in an aged care facility? Are there differences in the spiritual dimension for these people, and would the model I

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