Dementia tops fear list – but life can still have meaning

Getting dementia tops the list of fears for older people including baby boomers, says a celebrated world authority on ageing and spirituality, Dr Elizabeth MacKinlay.

Yet people with dementia can still find meaning in life, she says.

MacKinlay is professor of theology at Charles Sturt University in Canberra and an Anglican priest.

She has been presenting workshops in New Zealand, Spiritual Reminiscence in Dementia”, on ageing and spirituality, particularly spiritual reminiscence for people with dementia.

Some of the work Prof MacKinlay does looks at unpacking what people think is ‘spirituality’. “It’s not religion, although religion may be a way of working out one’s spirituality,” she says.

“A lot of Australians and New Zealanders don’t have a religious faith. Yet they still search for meaning.”

MacKinlay’s work in this field started when one of her friends, Christine Bryden, was diagnosed with early onset alzheimer’s at age 46.

“She asked me if I would journey with her because I was both a geriatric nurse and an Anglican priest. She thought that she needed both.”

“She challenged me in many ways over the coming years and I found that it was possible to talk with her quite naturally.”

Bryden has since published several books including “Who will I be when I die.”

MacKinlay was brought to New Zealand by the Selwyn Foundation for Ageing and Spirituality.

She is the author of a number of books

Her book, “Finding Meaning in the Experience of Dementia: the Place of Spiritual Reminiscence Work ,” won an Australasian Journal of Aging book prize last year.


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News category: New Zealand.

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