A Conceptual Model of Late-Life Spirituality

By Anne Glass

There is a lot of talk about the importance of spirituality in late life, but there is no clear model that defines it. As the physical plans for the ElderSpirit Community (ESC) development moved forward, a "Strategic Planning Task Force" was formed, specifically to serve as the "spiritual architects." Members Monica Appleby, Anne Glass, Anne Liebig, and Jean-Marie Luce comprised the team and began meeting in summer 2001.

In an effort to envision what the ESC might look like in five years, the team first found it necessary to articulate ESC's vision of late-life spirituality. Building on Drew Leder's ideas, drawing from our experience, and reviewing other relevant literature, the task force developed the conceptual model called Late-Life Spirituality in the ElderSpirit Community. The task force identified six dimensions in this holistic model: inner work, caring for oneself, mutual support, service to the larger community, respect for the earth, and the creative life. Aspects and suggestions of how each dimension could be exemplified were identified. The model was developed by the task force, given shape by Anne Glass, revised after input from the Potential Residents Group, and then approved by the FOCIS Futures Board.

The model was presented at the 3rd annual ESC meeting (May 2002), and time was dedicated to allow participants to respond. The model was well received and some expressed "it has increased my understanding of spirituality." People seem to like the model's layout and multi-dimensionality. They felt that all six dimensions fit and were important. Some noted that most individuals are strong in and most attracted to one or two dimensions, but that this model would encourage members to develop their strengths in the other dimensions as well. One participant said, "A place like ESC is a blueprint for living it." The task force also sees the model as a tool toward replication.


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