Spirituality in later life

Aging will inevitably affect our spirituality but it doesn’t have to be all negative.

It’s hard to pin down a definition of spirituality and it’s not just about religion. It’s generally taken to be about the things that bring us meaning and purpose, the things we value in life and what helps us to put things into perspective. Spirituality makes us feel a sense of connection with something beyond ourselves.

Some people find it helpful to think about spirituality in four ways:

  • Self – how we see ourselves, our self-image and self-esteem
  • Others – how we relate to other people, including our closest relationships
  • Beyond – what are the things other than people that bring richness and fullness to our lives? Music, art, nature, creativity
  • Formal religion or belief – belief in gods or God, following a religious practice or a philosophy of life

Each of these aspects of our spirituality can bring us both positive and negative experiences and the impact they have on our lives will vary accordingly. As we age, we may need to think about how we could change the way we support each of these aspects of our spiritual wellbeing.

Who do you think you are?

If the image of yourself is of a young, healthy independent person, but your hearing is diminishing, or you can’t complete tasks as you once could, then this aspect of my spirituality may take a knock. It might mean that you have to re-evaluate activities that you’ve previously thought to be core to who you are.  

Who’s who?

Aging can affect our relationships too. We will experience more bereavements and we will probably come to rely more on support from others – family, friends, and professional carers. This dependence can strengthen some relationships, but put pressure on others, especially if our ideas of our practical needs are very different from the views of our family. But accepting a bit of help with practical tasks or letting go of some responsibilities, might open up some new possibilities and free up time and energy for other activities. For example, to support other people, through conversation, phone calls, or letters. Or we could create a mini book group - find a friend interested in reading the same book and meet once a week on the phone to discuss it.  

Here are some tips to connect with spirituality

Bringing the outside in

If you can no longer get out into nature, think about how nature can come to you. Let in some fresh air (if it’s not too cold!); put up a bird feeder and look after some houseplants. You could also join a virtual tour online - there are hundreds to be found on the internet, visiting places from all over the world in the comfort of your own home.


Some creative activities do require a degree of dexterity which might lessen as we get older. If writing is difficult then voice recognition software can help. Some painting techniques need less precision than others. Singing may be easier than playing an instrument. None of these will take away the grief we may feel as some abilities are lost but staying creative is so good for our spiritual wellbeing that it’s worth trying out some alternatives.

Faith matters

There is a common assumption that as we age, we get ‘stuck in our ways’ and maybe even more so in relation to our values, faith, or beliefs. That’s often not the case: as our lives change, so the ways we seek and make meaning change, and our priorities and our opportunities may change. Our beliefs may change a lot, bringing greater certainty or greater doubt and it can be helpful to talk them over with a trusted friend or our faith leader. If we can no longer get to our usual place of worship then there are other ways of staying involved. Representatives of our faith group may be able to come to us; worship in many different styles can be found online and some on television and radio; mark the festivals at home by lighting a candle (battery-operated candles are safest), saying prayers, and reading scripture. If we’re skilled in pastoral care then the wisdom of our years could become a great support to other people.

Aging will inevitably affect our spirituality but it doesn’t have to be all negative.

Further reading and resources

Webpage last updated January 2023. 

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