Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




This study investigated what gives older persons meaning in their lives and the role of spirituality in that meaning. The study focused on the direction of their lives, the sense of purpose in life, both from a formal religious belief and from the sense of ideals held by the individual. The study utilized qualitative methods. The ten subjects were selected from referral by others interviewed and by people met during the course of the last two years. Those interviewed ranged in age from 65 to 92 years; two were male; nine were Caucasian, and most were middle class. Only three of the ten interviewed were comparatively healthy, but all have purpose to their lives. For most, that purpose is to help others or family or to be actively engaged in causes and issues. Most of them lead full, happy lives. In very unique ways, all expressed the importance of some type of spirituality (not necessarily church-centered), and were aware of God or a higher being, often basing their life philosophy on devotion to that higher being. The themes of their lives were, for the most part, family, the manner in which they had faced and borne early life and late life losses, life-long learning, being active, companionship, spirituality and religion, volunteerism, and active advocacy. This study found older age, in spite of physical failings, to be a positive time. The majority of the group were vitally engaged in everyday living. They embraced the losses and suffering in their lives to form spiritual meaning in their final years.


A Thesis Presented to the Department of Gerontology the University of Nebraska and the Faculty of the Graduate College In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Master of Arts in Social Gerontology University of Nebraska at Omaha. Copyright Erdice J. Yearley March, 1993