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Programs today targeting older adults often rely upon outdated models, paradigms that do not reflect current cultural trends, or an incomplete understanding of the deeper issues faced by persons in the later stages of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 program goes as follows:
- Orientation Retreat
The orientation retreat sets the tone for the SACP as it draws students’ attention to spirituality and aging through meditations, discussions, and relationship-building. In addition to setting the overall tone for the SACP, the orientation retreat provides students with an overview of the program, its goals
,and expectations, including the readings, reflection papers, and project exercises. Designed to get students off to a solid start, the orientation retreat provides ample opportunity for students to ask questions of the faculty members who will serve as their mentors.
- Course 1: Serving Older Adults: What it Takes
Course 1 is designed to introduce students to two key elements of successfully serving older adults: (1) knowledge of the aging process, and (2) the steps involved in developing an implementation-ready project that effectively addresses spiritual needs. Course 1 begins with an overview of the physiological changes associated with aging, presented by Dr. Mary Harward, a geriatrician. Dr. Cordula Dick-Muehlke follows with a review of the significant psycho-social-spiritual issues emerging during adulthood, including, but not limited to, cognitive changes, mental health challenges, social isolation, and the four spiritual tasks of aging. Course 1 then shifts its focus to a complementary presentation by Doug Edwards, M.Div. on organizational theory, designed to build the capacity of students to create an implementation-ready project.
- Course 2: Introduction to Spirituality and Aging
Course 2 explores five spiritual challenges in older adulthood accompanied by overview of a model program that addresses the spiritual and other needs of older adults within a congregational setting. Don Koepke begins by addressing the spiritual challenges of recognizing one’s powerlessness and approaching aging as a pilgrimage. Dr. Janna Gosselin follows with a discussion of aging as a stumbling block and aging as informed by Julian Norwich. Finally, Dr. Cordula Dick-Muehlke addresses successful aging within the context of the Judeo-Christian spiritual tradition. Course 2 then shifts to applying the knowledge gained about spirituality and aging with the presentation of a model program, the Solana Beach Presbyterian Church Senior Lunch and Program, by Cindy Wright, M.A.
- Course 3: Spiritual Development in Context
Course 3 addresses how aging is experienced differently by people depending upon their life experience, belief systems, and context. After reviewing current research and theoretical models about cultural and contextual influences that effect one’s view of aging, participants will learn to identify and appreciate how an older adult might experience their own aging within their own context, and will be introduced to strategies for engaging older adults in conversation about factors that may impact their aging. Developmental models for spirituality will be considered, as well as ways in which we find meaning in our later years.
- Course 4: Approaching the Challenges and Opportunities of Aging
Course 4 will provide a window into the unique spiritual dynamics of later life. While all aspects of aging over the life cycle are significant, later life brings with it particular challenges and opportunities, especially when considering one’s mortal condition, and we will consider both the difficult nature of some dynamics older adults face, as well as potentially transformative and fulfilling possibilities.
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:
- 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