Advancing Spiritual Care Through Research

Spirituality, health and well-being in the elderly

Bailly et al. (2018) examined the trajectory of spirituality in a cohort of 567 non-institutionalized older adults living in Tours, France, during a period of five years. The measurements for spirituality (Daily Spiritual Experience Scale, DES), social support (Satisfaction with Social Support subscale of the Duke Social Support Index), and accommodative tendencies (Flexible Goal Adjustment) were longitudinally collected at three time points (2007, 2009, and 2012). The results of the study confirmed some expected observations, such as higher levels of spirituality among religious older adults when compared with the ones without religion, and older women reporting higher levels of spirituality than older men. But the most interesting finding was the observation that the measured levels of spirituality among older adults remained stable during this five-year period. Based on a growing number of studies and theories of aging suggesting that the levels of spirituality increases during a person’s lifetime, one would expect an increase in the levels of spirituality along the study follow-up. The authors, however, interpreted the stable level of spirituality informed by the participants as having already reached a relatively high mean rating score of spirituality at baseline. From the beginning of the trail, many participants expressed self-contentment and reported having found meaning in their lives. Moreover, the responders had, in general, more years of education than expected for people in their age group, lived at home independently with a good self-health evaluation, had relatively fewer diseases, and a good perception of financial satisfaction; these characteristics perhaps make this group not representative of the French general population in the same age bracket.