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Journal of Religion, Spirituality and Aging


This article identifies the unique contributions social work has made to the study of spirituality and religion in relation to aging, based on respect for their diverse expressions. Definitions of religion and spirituality that particularly relate to late life are provided. The study of spirituality and aging is situated in four historical phases ranging from sectarian origins (1890s to 1920), to professionalization and secularization (1920s-1970s), to renewed interest (1980s to mid 1990s), to the current phase characterized by transcending boundaries. Interdisciplinary research by social workers is prevalent. Topics of study include a wide range of religious and nonreligious spiritual perspectives, cultural groups and life domains. There is an expansion of interest in international research and collaboration on spirituality and aging as well. Future research possibilities include functions of religion and spirituality for older adults, spirituality in relation to professional direct practice, professional ethics, macro level social work, and public policy. The state of the art provides a foundation for future expansion in detail and depth of studies on these topics as well as for greater refinement of relevant theory and methodologies for inquiry.


This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis Group in Journal of Religion, Spirituality and Aging on October 11, 2008, available online at:

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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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