S&A Certificate Program


The Spirituality and Aging Certificate program, developed in tandem with NTS West and Human Good, enables participants to gain an understanding of the essential role of spirituality and how spirituality enhances the efficacy of other health care and congregational services to and with older adults.

Programs today targeting older adults often rely upon outdated models, paradigms that do not reflect current cultural trends, or an incomplete understanding of the deeper issues faced by persons in the later stages of life. Today’s research shows that what is often lacking in older adult programming is an emphasis on the spirituality of aging.

This certificate program will focus on developing an awareness of spirituality in aging, allowing participants to engage the spirituality of the older adults whom they serve as well as their own spirituality in a manner that is wholistic and is sensitive to spiritual formation and human development.

The Spirituality & Aging Certificate Program will be offered starting in 2018 with a retreat, followed by four classes

The program goes as follows:

  • Orientation Retreat
    During our first meeting together, participants receive an overview of the program, including readings and assignments, and also start forming relationships with one another as they share their backgrounds and interest in spirituality and aging. As well, participants are encouraged to start reflecting on how they might positively impact the lives of older adults through a project developed as part of the program. Finally, we will describe how the four courses build on each other to culminate in a final project.
  • Course 1: Aging Defined
    Aging is a complex process that affects the biological, cognitive, psychological, social, and spiritual aspects of the person. As a basis for the in-depth exploration of spirituality and aging to follow in subsequent courses of the program, Dr. Mary Harward, a geriatrician, reviews the major physiological changes older adults face. Additionally, Lead Professor Cordula Dick-Muehlke, Ph.D., a consultant in aging and dementia and licensed psychologist, reviews major cognitive (i.e., Alzheimer’s disease) and psychological (i.e., depression) disorders that can occur in older adulthood. To deepen their appreciation of the aging experience, participants are asked to interview two older adults in preparation for Course 2.
  • Course 2: Toward a Spirituality of Aging
    Building on Course 1, participants reflect on the impact of spirituality on the multiple challenges of older adulthood. Lead Professor Cordula Dick-Muehlke, Ph.D., and two expert instructors, Don Koepke, M.Div., and Janna Gosselin, Ph.D., draw on major thinkers from across the ages to explore how spirituality informs the aging process and can transform it from simply an experience of decline to one of growth and opportunity. Based on the knowledge gained in this course and assigned readings, participants are asked to formulate their current understanding of spirituality and aging in a brief paper.
  • Course 3: Aging in Context
    The dynamics of aging cannot be understood without being mindful of the unique context of each individual. Factors like living situation, family structures, internal belief systems, and external social and environmental circumstances all play a role in how a person experiences spirituality in the midst of aging. Continuing from Course 2, Lead Professor Stephen Peterson, M.Div., who has a background in hospice chaplaincy and grief counseling, engages participants in a discussion exploring these themes, integrating what they have experienced in their own life and work. Participants will also reflect on their own personal and professional contexts as they work on their projects.
  • Course 4: Spirituality and Organizational Theory
    This final meeting draws from the content of the first three courses to focus on the practical aspects of how to create a successful project in the community that will positively impact the lives of older adults. Facilitated by Lead Professor Stephen Peterson, M.Div., several instructors with wide experience discuss the successes and future challenges of existing programs and how to best approach social change. Cindy Wright, M.A., Susan Brown, M.A., and Doug Edwards, M.Div., M.F.T., join the course to discuss their programs and perspectives on supporting spirituality in older adults.

By the end of the Spirituality and Aging Certificate Program, our hope is that all participants feel empowered to make change in their own communities.

The Certificate program provides continuing education credit for those seeking hours for:

  • BBS
  • RCFE
  • BRN
  • NHA
  • Continuing Educational Certificate for Denominational Requirements



This course on spirituality and aging has been outstanding! It accomplished its purpose—to enlighten and expand one’s understanding of aging from physical, psychosocial, cultural, and spiritual perspectives. I have benefitted personally and professionally, and my clients benefit from both my enhanced perspective and from the project I have designed.

I have learned much from the excellent instruction, the depth of the content (all relevant to my work), and my own parallel process. This parallel process—learning about myself as I learned the content and how I can utilize it to better serve others—has been the most delightful discovery. Thank you!”

~ Beth Camera, White Sands, a HumanGood community

The Spirituality and Aging Certificate Program was incredibly educational and eye opening. This class provided insight and understanding about aging from a spiritual perspective that I did not receive in my graduate courses. I greatly enjoyed the assigned reading and felt that each book perfectly aligned with the lecture. The professor engaged all the students and opened the discussion for lively debate and conversation. I would definitely recommend this course to anyone who is working with seniors. I am from a younger generation working with the senior population and do not have the real world experience to say I personally understand their struggles. This course has provided insight and perspective, which allows me to work my clientele more meaningfully. I also hope to share the benefits of this course with my coworkers and clientele when I implement my final project.

~ Ashley Lundgren, Redwood Terrace, a HumanGood community

To enroll into the certificate program, click here.