The Importance of Religious Orientation and Purpose in Life for Dying Well: Evidence from Three Case Studies

Monika Ardelt, Cynthia S. Koenig
2007 Journal of Religion Spirituality & Aging  
As older adults approach the end of their lives, it is not uncommon to find a decrease in subjective well-being. However, a number of studies have indicated that elders with an intrinsic rather than extrinsic religious orientation often are able to keep a high level of subjective well-being even if they are close to death. In a previous quantitative study, only intrinsic religiosity was indirectly and positively related to subjective well-being in a sample of 103 relatively healthy older Monika
more » ... ealthy older Monika Ardelt is Associate Professor, adults and 19 hospice patients (aged 61ϩ), mediated by shared spiritual activities and purpose in life. Extrinsic religiosity, by contrast, was indirectly and negatively related to subjective well-being. To explore in greater depth how religious orientation might influence subjective wellbeing at the end of life, we used the method of objective hermeneutics to examine semi-structured qualitative interviews with three older male hospice patients (aged 79, 80, and 98) on religion/spirituality and attitudes about death and dying. Results of the analyses revealed that the intrinsically religious respondent maintained his sense of cosmic purpose in life, which continued to be a source of satisfaction for him, unaffected by his terminal illness. The two extrinsically religious respondents, however, did not find solace in their religion and, hence, were unable to cope with their physical and emotional dependence and vulnerability. The findings suggest that an intrinsic religious orientation is most likely to be related to a cosmic sense of purpose in life, which facilitates subjective well-being even in the face of death.
doi:10.1300/j496v19n04_05 fatcat:kk3hgwidnnfklhlshvn4fuwsoa