ORCID Identifier(s)


Graduation Semester and Year

Spring 2024



Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Social Work


Social Work

First Advisor

Regina Praetorius

Second Advisor

December Maxwell

Third Advisor

Sophia Fantus


Background and Objectives

People in midlife are often encumbered with uncertainty about how to transition toward later life without regret. Many sense the need to spiritually mature as they age, but lack practical guidance. Elders are those in later life who have made this transition and who have become sources of wisdom, nurturance and guidance for those younger than they. This phenomenological study explores the spiritual maturation journey of eldering.

Research Design and Methods

Ten people who were identified as elders took part in intuitive life story interviews. Using Story Method, this phenomenological study sought to identify key themes in the collective story of spiritual eldering.


All ten individuals described having a meaningful relationship with at least one elder during their childhood. They each spoke about how they carried a grief that would never go away, as well as how this grief had not just hurt them but had also guided and expanded their lives. Thirteen soulwork practices were identified as ways the elders “relativized” their egos and widened their perspectives. All ten spoke about how critical it was to orient their lives toward the meaningful glimmers.

Discussion and Implications

The journey of eldering is a lifelong adventure of spiritual maturation. The path is not located in a single tradition, nor must one wait until later life to begin it. Ultimately, transitioning from midlife to elderhood is not a series of steps or ceremonies, but a lifetime devotion to a set of practices and circumstances that can be learned and cultivated.


Elder, Eldering, Spiritual, Aging, Maturity, Grief, Growth, Human Development, Lifespan


Education | Medicine and Health Sciences | Social and Behavioral Sciences





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