A Creative Approach to Longer Life
ESMA has prepared this new edition of Affirmative Aging as a
resource for individuals, families and for church and society. A study
guide at the end of each chapter makes it possible for the reader to
engage in personal reflection or for the book to be used in group study.
A brief resume on each of the 12 contributors reveals that they are all
professionals in the areas of concern for the physical psychological, and
spiritual aspects of aging. These authors are lay and ordained people in
the Episcopal, Roman Catholic, and Presbyterian denominations.
The headings of the various chapters reveal a broad coverage of
relevant topics for the aging such as spiritual journey, ethics,
opportunities, meditation and prayer, wisdom, intergenerational
relationships, the role of the Church, and death preparation as life
The book includes a final chapter entitled "Further Reading" which
gives a sampling of writings in the field of religion and aging including
a comprehensive guide on the subject matter.
Two general themes emerge out of the diverse topics of the various
The first theme explores the aspects of aging, including societal
attitudes toward aging (they should be affirmative and not negative),
intergenerational relationships within nuclear and church families, and
facing the need to prepare for dying (including putting one's house in
The second theme explores the spirituality of aging, which would be
of particular interest to readers of this website.
In his chapter "Aging: A Spiritual Journey", well-known Anglican,
T. Herbert O'Driscoll recalls for us the revolution of the 1970's (when
there was a questioning of traditional values and many left organized
religion to follow their own quest, looking to the East for nourishment
and finding meditation, contemplation and a sense of intimate relationship
with the earth. He further suggests that Christian religion has
rediscovered Christian Spirituality and that our faith is being more
understood, not merely as a body of knowledge, but as a mystery which can
give more meaning to our life experience, particularly as we grow older.
Nancy Roth, an Episcopal priest, teacher and author contributes a
chapter on 'Meditation and Prayer' which opens with an introduction to the
anchoress/saint of the 14th century, Lady Julian of Norwich. Using this
concrete example, Roth tells us that our circumstances need not limit
either the richness of our inner lives nor our connections with the
outside world. She goes on to help us through scripture to know who we
are and how we might, through prayer, grow more deeply into this
understanding. She then describes very simply (in the best sense of that
word) the many ways to pray and adds a few further thoughts on spiritual
Robert Carlson adds an interesting chapter on "The Gift Of Wisdom"
giving us three important qualities of wisdom:
1. Wisdom involves our total orientation to life, rather than the
accumulation of specific knowledge or skills.
2. As we learn to love ourselves, we are free to love others: wisdom
is evidenced in the way we relate to others.
3. The ability to deal with the limits of life either through faith or
He suggests that wisdom invites us to learn that, "my life is my
responsibility and no one else's." He continues:
- "If is not just the temptation to believe that our ownership lasts
beyond death that blocks our acquisition of wisdom. It is also the belief
that even in this life we actually possess anything."
And this brings us full circle to the question posed by Emma Lou
Benignus in the Introduction, "When the years of pressured ego-inflation
finally are let go, our insights and questions find freedom to change:
the old familiar, "Who am I?" can now become "Whose am I" and "To whom do
I really belong?"
Affirmative Aging, New Edition, A Creative Approach to Longer Life.
Joan E. Lukens, ed. (12 contributors) for The Episcopal Society for
Ministry on Aging, Inc. (ESMA). Ridgefield, CT: Morehouse Publishing, 1994.
141 pages, $14.95. Visit the ESMANET Bookstore.
Milo G. Coerper/ Reviewer:
Presence: An International Journal of Spiritual Direction