Special Issue "Spirituality and Aging: Finding Meaning in the Context of Personal and Societal Change"

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444). This special issue belongs to the section "Religions and Health/Psychology/Social Sciences".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 31 March 2022.

Special Issue Editor

Prof. Dr. Jane Kuepfer
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Schlegel-UW Research Institute for Aging, and Conrad Grebel University College, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, ON N2L 3G6, Canada
Interests: Spirituality & Aging; spiritual care in residential care; spiritual resources; baby boomers

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The population in much of the world is aging, as improvements in health care have lengthened life. At the same time, shifts in religiosity over the last century have altered our mechanisms for finding meaning in life. As older adults live into the 2020s and beyond, questions about meaning grow in significance.

This Special Issue will focus on the importance of spirituality and spiritual care for long life, exploring

  • sources of inner strength and resilience in later life;
  • the role of community/belonging/trust; and
  • what the intersections of spirituality and aging teach us (older adults and younger adults) about being more fully human—in our vulnerability, compassion, mortality …

especially in the context of the global pandemic/isolation and loneliness, and in the context of residential care and/or dementia.

 This Special Issue of Religions will be of interest within many disciplines, from religious studies and theology to psychology, sociology, and the humanities, as well as the clinical world of pastoral care, chaplaincy, nursing, palliative care, social work, spiritual direction, spiritually integrated psychotherapy, etc. In this Special Issue, we will hear from those who research and study spirituality and aging, but also from practitioners. It will encourage and inspire those who live and work with older adults, in faith communities, in residential care, and all of us as we grow older ourselves. It will also help policy-makers better understand the essential nature of spiritual care in later life.

This Special Issue will make the readership of Religions aware of the multidisciplinary conversations within spirituality and aging. It will also help those in residential care provision and gerontology to better understand the integral role of spirituality in later life.

Papers published will include, but are not restricted to:

  • providing appropriate and accessible spiritual care in residential care;
  • finding meaning in late life—why am I still here?
  • the role of older adults in faith communities—perceptions and practices in world religions;
  • the experience of growing older, and what spirituality has to do with it;
  • the role of change in later life, including the experience of dementia;
  • toward the end—letting go of life in a medicalized world—dying with meaning; and
  • the balance of medical and spiritual care at the end of life.

Prof. Dr. Jane Kuepfer
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Religions is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.


  • spirituality and aging
  • older adults
  • spiritual care
  • residential care
  • dementia
  • meaning

Published Papers

This special issue is now open for submission, see below for planned papers.

Planned Papers

The below list represents only planned manuscripts. Some of these manuscripts have not been received by the Editorial Office yet. Papers submitted to MDPI journals are subject to peer-review.

Paper 1:

Title: What Did the Pandemic Teach Us About Religion, Spirituality, and Aging?
Abstract: For over four decades, researchers have investigated the role of religion and spirituality in older people’s lives. This work has shown that many elders from different faith traditions find meaning and purpose in personal religious and spiritual practices as well as from the rituals and social connections of faith communities. Religious coping by older people has also been widely investigated and numerous studies have shown how religious coping strategies can contribute to health and well-being. The COVID-19 pandemic has upended lives of persons of all ages throughout the world. Older adults have been particularly susceptible to the virus and the deleterious effects of the social isolation necessary to prevent its spread. People living in care communities have suffered greatly, not just because of the disease, but also because of being separated from loved ones and fellow residents. Starting from the early days of the pandemic, gerontologists have rallied to address a wide variety of issues affecting older persons’ lives and their professional organizations have supported these efforts through many special publications. Curiously, however, as of March 2021, there has been little mention of the effects of pandemic challenges on elders’ religiousness and spirituality. In other words, a wide gap has opened between the accumulated knowledge about religion, spirituality, and aging and the efforts to understand how elders are dealing with the suffering and losses of the pandemic. This paper will report on my review of all pandemic papers published by the Gerontological Society of America (GSA) in its various journals and newsletters between January 2020 and January 2022. It will critically examine whether COVID-19 research has considered how elders who described their religious and spiritual lives in the years leading up to 2020 responded when the pandemic forced the shutdown of their faith communities. In addition to the GSA publications to be reviewed, the paper will also draw on peer-reviewed studies appearing elsewhere. Recently, several papers have described the resilience of elders in the face of so many pandemic disruptions. However, so far none of these papers has asked whether that resilience might be related to religious and spiritual practices, some of which have moved online in response to public health measures to mitigate virus spread. In addition to reviewing the published literature on older adults’ religiousness and spirituality during the pandemic in light of what we thought we knew before the pandemic, this paper will report on my interviews with elders in my own congregation and my correspondence with elders replying to my questions about how the pandemic affected the ways they have sought meaning and purpose through religiousness and spirituality.

Paper 2:

Title: Anti-Aging or Aging-Enhancing Medicine & Spiritual Well-Being
Abstract: Anti-aging interventions have been strongly critiqued as reinforcing ageism and devaluing the elderly. Some of these prolongevity medical interventions, both actual and anticipated will be introduced. I consider how an intersectional spiritual lens can help us to probe three ways of framing the ethics of anti-aging medical interventions. These ways of framing the issue are: 1. the spiritual anthropological question of what it means to be human and possess dignity and value; 2. the morphological freedom of choice; and 3. justice, with an emphasis on social justice and voice. Questions around interdependence, connection, values, spiritual needs, and policy implications emerge.




Back to TopTop