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ss triple helix - spring 2017,  Ageing and Spirituality across Faiths and Cultures

Ageing and Spirituality across Faiths and Cultures

Elizabeth MacKinley (ed)
Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2010, £22.99, 272pp, ISBN 9781849050067
Reviewed by Cameron Swift, Professor at King's College School of Medicine

Clarity about the concepts and inter-relationships of 'ageing' and 'spirituality' is urgently needed for healthcare professionals.

Ageing (attitudinal perceptions and misperceptions, and their consequences) is explored against background demography and speculated across a range of religious and cultural contexts either formally (drawing on traditional teachings) or anecdotally (eg amongst Australian indigenous groups). Areas of common ideological ground include 'respect' for older people and 'duty of care' (a family imperative in Islam). In care provision, awareness and sensitivity are rightly emphasised, and some practical tools to assess 'spiritual need' are proposed.

Spirituality is widely represented as diverse, subjective, psycho-social, and culture-driven, and implicitly commended as pluralistic (versus 'fundamentalist'), with distinction drawn between 'internalised' spirituality and organised religious observance. An informative chapter usefully summarises basic Islamic teaching.

The cross-cultural insights are important and valuable. Refreshingly, one chapter on 'orthodox faith' deals not with Orthodoxy (eg Eastern or Greek) but explores (in the specific context of dementia) the core Christian understanding of spirituality as 'personhood' - every human being made in God's image - and its implications.
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