We live in a time and in a culture where aging is looked at as a detriment to life. It’s looked at as a deterioration of functioning on all levels, and not as a positive phase in itself. Out of that belief come all of the systems of care and ways of approaching aging that are presently instituted.
We have come to view the loss of physical functioning and mental clarity as equivalent to a process of deterioration in which life becomes less valuable and a person becomes identified with their limitations. This view, born out of the emphasis on material life, accomplishment, and productivity, minimizes the importance of the inner values and spiritual gifts that those at the end of their physical life may share with others if they choose to, and are invited to. These spiritual gifts often lay hidden beneath the exterior of physical or mental impairment, yet are nevertheless very real. Their development is often the reason that the impairment exists in the first place.When we view each stage of life as contributing to the overall wholeness of the individual, we will come to view the loss of outer activity as a sign that inner spiritual activity of an invisible kind may now be taking place, and we may seek to foster such activity through our respect for this process. Such a view would shift, entirely, our current ways of being with older persons. Instead of simply focusing on their liabilities, we would understand the positive aspects of their life, even in the presence of great limitation.