Emerging developments in spirituality, religion, and aging

Vern L. Bengtson, Samantha L.C. Kang, Camille G. Endacott, Gabrielle G. Gonzales, Merril Silverstein

Research output: Chapter in Book/Entry/PoemChapter

2 Scopus citations


Over the past century three developments have changed the situation regarding religion and aging. Individuals are living longer than ever before; societies have higher numbers of older persons than ever before; and seniors - including baby boomers as they age - are increasingly becoming the most religiously engaged members of the population. In our research we have been examining issues emerging from these trends. Does religiosity increase with age? Data from our 45-year longitudinal survey data suggests that religious intensity does increase, whereas church attendance declines, related to age-related frailty. Data from our intensive interviews with older congregation members identified six trajectories of spiritual and religious change in later life, from those who reported an increase in both dimensions to those who have turned away from religion altogether. We explored how churches are responding to the needs of older adults by interviewing some priests, rabbis, and pastors and comparing their responses to the age 70+ adults in our sample. Many clergy unfairly equated seniors with frailty, while most of the older adults asked for programs reflecting their more active interests and spiritual needs. We also interviewed a sample of non-religious older adults, seniors who looked to science and rational thought as alternatives to religious dogma. These were frames of meaning that they found useful and satisfying as ways of making sense of death and suffering, morality and sense of purpose, stigma and persecution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationNew Dimensions in Spirituality, Religion, and Aging
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages26
ISBN (Electronic)9780429874000
ISBN (Print)9781138614802
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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