Aging brings us into the reality of our own and others’ mortality and the end of our material bodies. Advancements in treatment options for most life-threatening diseases have increased our options exponentially, and now the responsibility for our choices lies with us. Taking time to consider the many end-of-life options in advance and reflect consciously on one’s views of dying and death decisions will help lessen the burden in the future.
“How we make end-of-life decisions for ourselves and respond to the decisions of our loved ones is influenced by many factors, including the generation we are born in,” said Jane Kuepfer, Schlegel Specialist in Spirituality and Aging. “Having more meaningful conversations about the topic of death and dying is needed to honour our differences.”
On June 3, spiritual care providers, academics and researchers, senior care leaders, older adults and those interested in spirituality came together virtually and in person at Conrad Grebel University College to dive into these conversations at the With open eyes & open hearts: Recognizing and living the journey of dying and death together, this year’s annual Spirituality and Aging Seminar.
The seminar explored hospice palliative care options, how different generations perceive death and dying, collective pandemic grief and more. The event was hosted by Kuepfer and Led by Linda Hochstetler, a social worker who specializes in illness, dying and death, The day included many light-hearted, stimulating discussions about a topic often thought of as taboo and uncomfortable.
Dying choices are also deeply affected by the collective pandemic grief and fatigue experienced by the majority of Canadians. Collectively we have suffered during the pandemic, and collectively we can lean on our spiritual traditions at end of life and support each other to ease our fears and worries around dying and death.
Kuepfer has extensive experience as a spiritual care partner; her research explores older adults’ spiritual resources, including and beyond traditional faith-based practices. Her research has shown how spirituality, in its many forms, can improve resilience. She has hosted six of these annual seminars as well as nine International Conference on Spirituality and Aging events online.
The RIA was thrilled to recently announce that Kuepfer’s position as the Schlegel Specialist in Spirituality and Aging has been renewed until 2025.
“With this renewal, we will be able to continue important work in understanding and improving spiritual care for older adults, and strive towards providing spiritual care that is accessible and inclusive,” said Kuepfer.
Kuepfer will chair the 10th International Conference on Aging and Spirituality in June 2023, tentatively in-person.