Just returned from a most inspiring conference last week on ageing and spirituality at Concordia University in Forest Park near Chicago! I will share more about some of the interesting topics addressed there in my upcoming blogs, especially a very moving presentation by Rabbi Richard Address on new rituals for the second half of life. For now, I provide just a bit of history on this wonderful event.

The 7th International Conference on Ageing and Spiritualty continued a series of international Conferences which began in Canberra in 2000 as the birth child of Elizabeth MacKinlay.  All have explored aspects of Ageing and Spirituality, and until the 2015 Conference, all have been held in countries of the British Commonwealth – Australia, New Zealand, England and Scotland. The 2015 Conference, the first to be held in North America, was in Los Angeles. I have heard rumours that the next conference may be coming to Canada, so stay tuned!

Following the opening address by Dr. Lydia Manning and Dr. John Holton, who headed up the team that organized this year’s conference, Dr. Susan McFadden, reminded us that by focussing on spirituality we are part of a counter-cultural movement. She also noted that the challenges we call ageing are re-defined through looking at them spiritually. What does it mean, for example, when we say we are created in God’s image? Recalling the challenge that Aberdeen University scholar John Swinton issued at the 2013 conference in Edinburgh, Scotland, McFadden asked “Is there a particular aspect of God’s image that we manifest as we grow older?”  And how can spirituality bring us strength and resilience as we age?

These were some of the questions addressed throughout the conference, which dealt with issues around Counselling and older adults, LGBTT Aging and Spirituality, Dementia, Caregiving, Elder Abuse, Gratitude, and how to live a meaningful and purposeful life in the third and fourth quarters. Of particular interest were Dr. Will Randolph’s sessions on “Transcendent Spiritual Care” and “How Boomers are Changing Everything We Know About Aging”.

McFadden concluded her opening address with a quote from the late Joan Erikson, the Canadian born wife and research partner of Erik Erikson: “Old age is a great privilege, but what are we going to do with that privilege?” What indeed? If we are made in the divine image, then our calling is for the whole of life. Spirituality can help us to live out this calling in a way that honours that image and brings life meaning.

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