Spiritual Well-being

Spirituality Research – Older New Zealanders

As a response to the work with offenders in United Kingdom, Penny Eames became conscious that many of the offenders who were trying to make their lives better during their time in prison had turned to their faiths, particularly Buddhism, Islam and Hindu religions.

When questioned, these offenders emphasised the importance of spiritual well-being, in defining who they are, and that it also gave them a possible way forward when they leave prison. Discussing this ‘spiritual well-being’ aspect of ‘cultural well-being’ led to a research project commissioned by the Bishop’s Action Foundation in New Plymouth www.bishopsactionfoundation.org.nz

The report on this, (which should be available sometime in the near future) will present the findings of research conducted during the second half of 2008 with 45 older New Zealanders in Taranaki, Waikato, Wellington and Kapiti Coast. It involved face to face interviews with a wide range of men and women aged between 50 and 90 years. The research gave participants the opportunity to share their understanding of the word “spiritual” and how they used their belief systems in times of crisis.

Interviewees included a broad range of ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds and the widest available range of religions and spiritual belief systems. This range included Roman Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Hindu, Islam, Atheist, Agnostic, Spiritualist, Sufi and Quaker older New Zealanders. Many of those interviewed belonged to “faith based” discussion groups, but others were located to fill gaps in the interview profiles. Almost all interviewees had thought about the topic and the interviews were mostly all held in the homes of those interviewed. They lasted between 30 minutes and 2.5 hours.

The findings that will be outlined in the report cover a wide range of views as to the meaning of the words ‘spiritual’ and ‘spirituality’. Also covered will be the equally wide range of ways that these older adults coped with crisis situations using their spirituality. These coping mechanisms included the expected responses including, prayer, meditation and talking with partners, family and friends, but less expected were the significant number of interviewees who used the arts, particularly writing and music, and the environment, particularly the sea, beach and the bush to enable them

to work through the time of crisis.   Walking on the beach as spiritual wellbeing

Questions to interviewees included asking about their superstitions, their codes of     behaviour,   their membership of religious groups, and each interviewee was asked to describe a  ‘spiritual experience or spiritual moment’.     Some of these special spiritual moments are included  in the paper as often they demonstrate the range and diversity of spiritual experiences that were shared.

The Spiritual Well-being – a part of cultural well-being for older New Zealanders,  The participants in the Spiritual Wellbeing – Te taha whanau interviews were encouraged to be free flowing with prompts to encourage “story telling” and deliberately allowed time for silence and reflection.  This provided indepth and often deeply emotional discussions which were recorded, yet only material that was not too personal was published.


Now available as a download PDF   Spirituality research Report of Older New Zealanders


Report commissioned by the Bishop’s Action Foundation – New Plymouth, New Zealand by Penny Eames click here.

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Or email:   penny.eames@paradise.net.nz


Eames, Cayley (2005) Spiritual Well-being of Older New Zealanders


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