From a faint glimmer in the eyes of the editors a plan was evolved to bring together international experts on ageing and spirituality and provide them with surroundings and a structure sufficient to enable significant discussion of their current thinking. The vision gained support, sponsorship and interest in a potential publication of the invited papers – all of which we are most grateful to acknowledge, since nothing could have taken place without them. The Symposium on Spiritual Dimensions of Ageing took place in Cumberland Lodge, Windsor Great Park in the UK, with sixteen scholars from Europe, America and Australia.
Abstracts and first drafts of chapters had been received and shared, and the arrangement of the presentations was not dissimilar to the eventual order of appearance in this volume, as their common interests or approaches seemed to suggest. The huge value, as well as the pleasure, of hearing papers delivered lies in the interaction that ensues. This process was orchestrated both on the days of the symposium and extended as far as possible through recording, transcribing and further circulation of responses and suggestions. Participants were asked to identify key points of their own papers, and links with others’, and to suggest themes for the book. All of this has fed into the chapters now before the reader.
The accumulation of expertise, combined with long experience and the wisdom that knows the limits of such knowledge, was powerful indeed and has left a lasting impression on those who participated, not least the editors whose dream had come to reality. We were grateful for the continued generosity of the participants, all of whom have subsequently revised their papers in the light of the discussions and made them available for this publication.
We are aware that spirituality and ageing is a field of study that draws on many disciplines, professions and philosophical approaches. It is also becoming more visible as an academic enterprise, though still widely distributed, so it seemed timely to bring together some excellent, but similarly diverse contributions. Our hope for the book is the encouragement and inspiration of contributions yet to come; for the benefit of our ageing societies, and the older people we wish not only to live alongside but also to become.