How are you addressing the spirituality of some of the older people in your congregation?
Marjory Zoet Bankson’s book, Creative Aging: Rethinking Retirement and Non-Retirement in a Changing World, addresses these seven phases and presents spiritual practices and questions to ponder to help retirees along their spiritual journey.
Phase 1: Release. When people retire, they need to let go of not only their primary work but also the way they saw themselves when they worked.
Phase 2: Resistance. Whenever people go through a major change, such as retirement, they can feel resistant to change. They may feel stuck and stagnant, and Zoet Bankson says that our society encourages this stagnation since we tells retirees that they’ve spent a lifetime of working and they can now relax and enjoy. For many retirees, relaxing and enjoying can feel like becoming stagnant.
Phase 3: Reclaiming. As retirees let go of their work, they can reclaim parts of themselves that they’ve neglected. They can rediscover unused gifts that they have and find ways to express themselves in ways that they couldn’t before because of their work and commitments.
Phase 4: Revelation. Retirees need help finding and forming a new vision of their future. Some have major concerns about what’s ahead, and we can help them express their fears and worries while envisioning a positive future.
Phase 5: Crossing Point. During this phase, retirees begin to join their inner and outer worlds. The first four phases require internal work and reflection. Phase five is a time when retirees begin to act on their vision and plans and become productive in the ways they feel called to do.
Phase 6: Risk. Whenever we begin something new, it entails risk. As retirees discover what they’d like to do, they may wonder how much risk to take and how much to hold back. Too often, retirees don’t get the opportunity to talk about these issues and to be intentional about their thinking and actions around risk.
Phase 7: Relating. As retirees step out, it’s important for them to find support and community. Too many older people feel isolated and alone. Help them find ways to connect with others.
“If, as we cross the threshold into this gift of extra time that we have received so gratuitously, we can let our ego boundaries soften to a permeable state and let ourselves receive the grace that surrounds us every day,” Marjory Zoet Bankson writes in Creative Aging. “Then we will find enough light to take the next step on the backpacker’s trail that is ours on this journey of creative aging.”
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