Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

Journal of Gerontological Social Work



Publisher Name

Taylor & Francis

Publisher Location

London UK


A pilgrimage is an intentional journey undertaken for reasons that can increase a sense of well-being. Although originally completed for religious purposes, motives in contemporary times may include anticipated religious, spiritual, and humanistic benefits as well as appreciation of culture and geography. This quantitative and qualitative survey research explored the motivations of a sample subset age 65 and over from a larger study who completed one of the Camino de Santiago de Compostela routes in Spain. Consistent with life course and developmental theory, some respondents walked at life decision points. The analyzed sample was 111 people, nearly 60% of whom were from Canada, Mexico, and the US. Nearly 42% were non-religious while 57% were Christian or a subset, Catholic. Five key themes emerged: challenge and adventure, spirituality and intrinsic motivation, cultural or historical interest, recognition of life experiences and gratitude, and relationships. In reflecting, participants wrote about sensing a call to walk and experiencing transformation. Limitations included snowball sampling, as it is difficult to systematically sample those who complete a pilgrimage. The Santiago pilgrimage counters a narrative of aging as diminishment through positioning identity, ego integrity, friendships and family, spirituality, and positive physical challenge at the center of aging.


ISSN: 1540-4048


© 2023 Holly Nelson-Becker, Joseph G. Pickard, & Florian Sichling. Published with license by Taylor & Francis Group, LLC. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

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