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The Leveson Centre for the study of Ageing, Spirituality and Social Policy
Older person

Ageing and spirituality:
Book notices and reviews

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Depression and Older People: towards securing well-being in later life
This book by Mary Godfrey and Tracy Denby reviews the evidence about later life depression and evaluates policy and practice responses. Depression can have major effects on physical health, recovery from illness and quality of life but it is often not recognised in older people - or worse considered as a normal part of ageing. In addition much of the literature is dominated by the medical model.

This report published by Policy Press and Help the Aged highlights the need for holistic and socially inclusive approaches towards older people and the importance of mental health promotion. Available price £14.99, ISBN 1-86134-642-5.

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Ageing, Spirituality and Well-being,
Albert Jewell (editor), Jessica Kingsley, 2003, ISBN 1-84310-167-X, £17.95.

This book brings together the papers from the International Conference with this title held in Durham in 2002. The papers explore how the particular spiritual needs of older people can be defined and addressed and how meaningful care and support can be given.

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Frequently Asked Questions on Spirituality and Religion
Price £1.00 Available from CCOA Publications, 19 Eldred Road Liverpool L16 8NZ with cheque payable to CCOA

This booklet was written by a group of project workers: Jo Airey (formerly Project Co-ordinator Sheffield Churches Council for Community Care), Gaynor Hammond (formerly Dementia Project Worker, Faith in Elderly People, Leeds), Pam Kent (formerly Centre Co-ordinator, MHA Centre for the Spirituality of Ageing, Leeds) and Laraine Moffitt (formerly Project Worker Christian Council on Ageing Dementia Project). It seeks to answer some of the questions that have most often been asked of the authors as project workers about spirituality and religion and the relation between the two. The questions were mostly posed by people working in a residential setting, but the answers should increase the awareness and understanding of anyone who cares for older people.

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Holiday at Home Resource Pack
Video and notes available from Outlook, The Wycliffe Centre, Horsley's Green, High Wycombe, Bucks, HP14 3XL, price £15.00 (members) or £20.00 (non-members).

Although not everyone would accept the premise that Christian evangelism should be the prime purpose of running a 'Holiday at Home' scheme for older people, nevertheless this pack produced by the Outlook Trust has much to commend it. The first 'Holiday at Home' programmes were initiated about ten years ago. They were designed to provide meaningful activity and outreach to older people during the summer when so many younger people are away and other organisations tend to have a summer break. This resource pack brings together information from six churches in different parts of the country who run successful 'Holiday at Home' schemes and were willing to share their programmes and planning details.

The pack includes practical issues to be considered concerning for example timing, location, access, finance, transport and recruitment of volunteers. This is followed by examples of programmes devised by the different churches, publicity material, detailed programmes, an outline for a thanksgiving service and published reports on particular 'Holidays at Home'. The material provided would greatly assist any church considering a 'Holiday at Home' and would enable them to learn from other churches' experience and save them 're-inventing the wheel'.

The pack is accompanied by a short video with an introduction by the Director of the Outlook Trust David Heydon. I found the video less helpful than the written materials, but some may find it encouraging to see 'Holiday at Home' schemes in action rather than simply reading about them.

Alison M Johnson (Centre Consultant)

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Nourishing the Inner Being: An Introduction to Spirituality,
2002, TVA Care Ltd, 1a Kent Avenue, Harrogate, HG1 2ES,, £98.00 + VAT

This is a twenty-five minute training video developed in association with MHA Care Group. I decide to test the video out on my Head of Care here within the Foundation residential and sheltered care home who used it with four of our senior carers. Our shared conclusion? That this video is an excellent resource for understanding how we might define spirituality and build it into our care provision. The programme provides an introduction to the philosophy, with a range of practical examples of how staff can use spirituality as a fundamental part of the care provision.

The key points are as follows:

  • Our spiritual needs are fulfilled in different ways, but we all need love, hope, faith and trust.
  • A 'memory box' is a good way of helping people retain their identity and spirit.
  • Universal spirituality encompasses everyone, irrespective of beliefs.
  • You can gauge a person's spiritual well-being and turn a negative outlook into a positive outlook. Take time to listen.
  • Spirituality is one of the core principles in caring. Spiritual needs should be assessed and recorded on a person's care plan.

This video deserves the widest possible circulation and use. It is sensitive, imaginative and practical. It recognises that we should all take time to get to know the older person and to recognise that this time and contact is as important as food and formal care.

The only negatives articulated by the group were firstly that the wall paper in the lounge and curtains were rather off putting! Secondly and perhaps inevitably there was a slightly unhelpful over-emphasis on Methodism which some of our ecumenical carers did not understand. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we felt that it was not helpful to tell residents before bedtime about the death of another resident.
However, none of these small points should detract from the usefulness of this excellent training resource.

James Woodward, Director and Anne Atkinson, Head of Care (Foundation of Lady Katherine Leveson)

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Older People and the Church
Ian Knox, T & T Clark, ISBN 0-567-08882-2, £18.99.

Ian Knox, director of the 40:3 Trust has written this book based on interviews with over 200 different people ranging from church leaders to older people themselves - both church goers and those outside the church. He explores the relationship between older people and the churches both theologically and sociologically and challenges the churches to reconsider their approach to pastoral visiting.

The book includes a detailed account of the author's research methods and findings and chapters cover such topics as what is old age, what older people think of the church and what can older people do for the church. The book concludes with a lengthy bibliography which unfortunately does not include the book of exactly the same title published the previous year and edited by Albert Jewell!

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Pioneering the Third Age: the church in an ageing population,
Rob Merchant, Paternoster Press, 2003, 177 pages,
ISBN 1-84227-177-6, £8.99.

It is refreshing that as a young curate Rob Merchant chose to address an area of church life and ministry which is often left to those who are themselves certainly in the Third Age! His book examines current and future issues facing older people and the church and combines gerontology and theology with practical insights into the implications for churches of the major changes coming about with the ever increasing numbers of Third Agers in society. He begins by looking at the current situation with statistics and quotations about ageing and then moves on to look at ageing in the Old and New Testaments. This is followed by a chapter on the early church which some may find rather less useful or relevant.

It is encouraging that his conclusions which take a further two chapters challenge the view of older people as 'yesterday's church' and clearly state that 'To reach younger generations is vital, but the consequence of an unbalanced approach will be to repeat the failure of previous generations that never prepared older members to pass on the baton of faith and leadership because they didn't know how.' He also refreshingly presents old age as an adventure rather than a time when one is pushed into the periphery of society.

This relatively short book should stimulate evangelical and other churches to take more seriously the spiritual needs of those who form a majority in most, if not all, of their congregations.

Alison M Johnson (Centre Consultant)

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A Telling Minority: Spirituality of older men

This pilot study for MHA Care Group, written and researched by Dr Janet Eldred, looks at older men's needs, desires, issues of growing and being older as well as their spiritual concerns. The study is based on a small sample - 19 completed questionnaires and five interviews - from older men living in MHA's care homes and sheltered housing schemes. The study identified powerful feelings of loneliness and isolation and a desire to feel valued, loved and useful. The fact that the older men were a minority in the places where they lived and within the church meant that they often lacked support which could be derived from friendship with other men on the same wavelength. The report concludes that the church should recognise these men's needs by including them within the fellowship, enabling them to join in house groups - and also by inviting them to lunch or taking them out for coffee or to the pub for a drink!

Copies of the report can be downloaded from or obtained from the Revd Dr Keith Albans, Tel: 01332 221831.

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