Friday, June 5, 2009

Gerotranscendence offers reflection, acceptance for elders

I’m currently co-teaching GERO 581 Spirituality and Aging, which is offered totally online, with Connie Beran, a faculty member from Concordia University, in Austin Texas. We were discussing some of the theories of aging that address the way in which the experience of spirituality changes in the later years of life. One of the theories that greatly appealed to us was “gerotranscendence.”

The term gerotranscendence comes from the words “gero” (“old age” in Greek) and “transcendence” (“to climb over” in Latin). According to Lars Tornstam, a researcher in this area, gerotranscendence is a developmental stage that occurs when an individual who is living into very old age shifts their perspective “…from a materialistic and rational view of the world to a more cosmic and transcendent one, normally accompanied by an increase in life satisfaction.”

Research shows that gerotranscendent elders are less self-occupied and more altruistic. As they age, they often become more selective in their choices of social and other activities; they avoid social interactions they judge to be unnecessary. Gerotranscendent seniors report a decreased interest in material things, viewing too many possessions as burdensome.

They express a greater need for “alone time” for thought and meditation, referred to as positive solitude. Gerotranscendent elders remove their “masks” because they no longer feel the need to play their old roles; they can now be themselves. These individuals find themselves simply accepting the mysteries of life, acknowledging they can’t understand everything. When gerotranscendent older adults reflect back on their lives, they realize that the pieces of their life’s jigsaw puzzle really do form a wholeness.

Gerotranscendence brings with it changing perceptions of time. An elder may report that they experience feelings of being a child, a young person, an adult and an older adult all in one moment. This view of time allows them to re-evaluate old events to gain new perspectives, and provides opportunities to right old wrongs. Finally, gerotranscendent individuals view death as a natural part of the life process; they appear to fear death less than those who are younger.

Senior living community administrators and health care providers are starting to examine how gerotranscendence can be recognized and supported within a variety of living and health care settings. It is important that staff and care providers view the hallmarks of gerotranscendence as a normal part of aging, and not indicative of a pathological process. Research is just beginning to identify the ways in which gerotranscendence as a developmental process can be better understood and supported within these and other settings.

For more information on gerotranscedence, check out the following links:

Constance McCloy, PT, EdD
Associate Professor


Kaye - SandwichINK said...

Hi, I came to visit from the Boomers & Seniors: News You Can Use Blog Carnival. I really enjoyed reading the article. Definitely good food for thought! :)

leanks said...

I'm glad to see that Tornstam's ideas are gaining acceptance in the academic community in the US. I discovered gerotranscendence last winter when I was reasearching theories of aging to help me better understand my 91 year old father. Tornstam's theory has helped me to accept my own aging as well. My husband, my sister and I blog about these ideas and others at Inside Aging Parent Care

Ladarat said...

I am a Thai Nurse in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
I did my Master degree Thesis in the tile: Gerotranscendence and death preparaton among the elderly in last 10 years.
Nowadays,Gerotranscendence Theory is not well known in Thai society.
I will take effort to give knowledge about Gerotranscendence Theory to Thai people.
I am very glad that Gerotranscendence is known in U.S.A