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Pastoral, Spiritual and Theological Issues in Ageing and Palliative Care –

Third level unit for undergraduates
Elective Unit for postgraduates

This unit provides a theoretical framework (lifecycle, developmental, and end-of-life) for the challenges of ageing, dementia and end-of-life experience. Psychosocial and cultural study of ageing within Australian society will complement broader theories on dementia, palliative care and spiritual care. Students will have the opportunity for theological, ethical and spiritual reflection on the meaning of ageing and the tasks of compassion and companioning as spiritual care.

Students will learn about the elements of spirituality that are common to the later stages of life and will apply the critical and reflective methods of pastoral theology to the task of articulating an informed and reflective practice of spiritual care to those who are ageing and to those on the palliative journey.

Upon successful completion of this unit postgraduate students will be able to:

  1. Describe and illustrate a spiritual care response to the philosophical and theological challenges to personhood of dementia and end-of-life experience in a palliative setting.
  2. Draw upon Scripture and theology to develop a theology of ageing and illustrate this in the context of spiritual care practice that addresses the meaning attached to growing old by contemporary society through culture, the arts, and the media.
  3. Critically reflect upon current research in dementia and end-of-life studies to develop a pastoral and spiritual care rationale for care within a multi-disciplinary context.
  4. Describe, reflect theologically on, and critically examine the socio-political implications of the ways in which ageing, disability and chronic illness affect our understanding of wellbeing.
  5. (a further learning outcome for postgraduates only) Develop a theological rationale for a spiritual care response that integrates in practice the philosophical and spiritual insights and ethical dimensions that emerge as care is offered to aged persons in the context of dementia or end-of-life challenges.

Class Time: When studied online, students join a virtual classroom for one hour per fortnight.


  • BTheol:  54 points in Pastoral Studies and 36 points in Biblical Studies or Systematic Theology.
  • Postgraduate: DP8001S Introduction to Pastoral Care (or equivalent) or AIFC’s Graduate Diploma in Counselling and Integrated Psychotherapy (Spiritual)


Face-to-Face mode

Level 3
One 2,500 word case study 50%
One 2,500 word research essay 50%

One 3,000 word case study 50%
One 3,000 word research essay 50%

Online mode

Level 3
Weekly Reading Reflection Forum (2000 words) 30%
Document Report (1000 words) 20%
Essay (2000 words) 50%

Weekly Reading Reflection Forum (1500 words) 30%
Case Study (1500 words) 20%
Essay (3000 words) 50%

Faculty: Chris Turner

Offered: in first semester 2019 (see timetable for seminar)

Select Bibliography:

Borowski, A., Encel, S. & Ozanne, E. (Eds) (2007) Longevity and social change in Australia, Sydney, UNSW Press.

Doka, K. & Tucci, A. Eds. (2015) The longest loss: Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Washington, DC: Hospice Foundation of America.

Erber, J. (2013) Aging and older adulthood. Chichester, UK: Wiley-Blackwell.

Evans, A. (2011) Is God still at the bedside? The medical, ethical, and pastoral issues of death and dying. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

Gilbert, P. Ed. (2013). Spirituality and end-of-life care: A handbook for service users, carers and staff wishing to bring a spiritual dimension to palliative care. Hove, Sussex: Pavilion Publishing and Media Ltd.

Hudson, R & O’Connor, M (2007). Palliative care and aged care. Ausmed Publications: Melbourne.

Kelleher, R.  & Yastrubetskaya, O. (2011) A voice at the table: an integrated model for pastoral care in aged mental health. Mulgrave, Vic: John Garratt Publishing.

Kenyon, G.  Bohlmeijer, E. & Randall, W. Eds. (2011) Storying later life: issues, investigations, and interventions in narrative gerontology. New York: Oxford University Press.

Mackinlay, E. (2012) Palliative care, ageing and spirituality: A guide for older people, carers and families. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

MacKinlay, E. (2010) Ageing and spirituality across faiths and cultures. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

MacKinlay, E. & Trevitt, C. (2012) Finding meaning in the experience of dementia: The place of spiritual reminiscence work. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

McFadden, S. & McFadden, J.  (2011) Aging together: dementia, friendship, and flourishing communities, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Meilaender, G (2013) Should we live forever? The ethical ambiguities of aging. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Musgrave, B., & McGettigan, N. (2010) Spiritual and psychological aspects of illness: Dealing with sickness, loss, dying and death. New York, Mahwah: Paulist Press.

Nolan, S. (2011). Spiritual care at the end of life: The chaplain as a ‘hopeful presence’. London, UK: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Sugar, J., Riekse, R., Holstege, H. & Faber, M. Eds. (2014) Introduction to aging: a positive, interdisciplinary approach. New York: Springer.

Swinton, J. (2012). Dementia: living in the memories of God. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Thane, P. (Ed) (2005) The long history of old age. London: Thames and Hudson.

Tornstam, L. (2005) Gerotranscendence: A developmental theory of positive ageing. New York: Springer.

Weber, R., & Orsborne, C. (2015) The spirituality of age. Rochester, Vermont: Park Street Press.