The Freedom of Years: Ageing in perspective by Harriet and Donald Mowat (BRF, 2018) is invaluable for those providing spiritual care. But it is a book for everyone because, as the authors make clear, we are all ageing from the moment of conception. This is a book about us, not just ‘them’. It also highlights power of story at every age and stage of life, but most particularly in our later years.
‘Walking the ageing path together, old and young, carer and cared-for can tell their stories. Conversations help us to reinterpret the past to understand more truly what happened to us in the light of another’s opinion. Therefore we talk to each other and not just to therapists… Carers or cared for, we must share the restless journey of our lives.’ (p. 23)
Harriet Mowat has spent her working career researching the social impact of ageing and was influential in the development of Scottish healthcare chaplaincy. She has been a key adviser to BRF in developing its programme The Gift of Years, which resources the spiritual journey of older people.
Her husband, Donald Mowat, is a retired psychiatrist, specialising in old age. He is an honorary staff member in the School of Divinity at the University of Aberdeen.
They explain how retirement brings with it a freedom to be authentically who we are, an opportunity to consider the cyclical nature of life; to see it as ‘a circular, progressive and eternal process of orientation, disorientation and reorientation’ (to quote Walter Brueggemann). ‘This idea,’ say the authors, 'of constantly reviewing, discovering, being confused and then finding a new way of seeing, is important to our ageing story.’ (p. 158)
This is an affirming book which explores how we review the meaning and purpose of our lives at times through the eyes of two fictional people, Angus and Josephine, who in their old ages can look back on completely different life circumstances and experiences, and who age in dissimilar but very telling ways.
As Christians, ageing gives us the opportunity to deepen and even transform our spiritual lives. The Freedom of Years helps those who want to undertake the journey by examining the ageing task, the inevitable changes and the possibilities of growth and joy along the way.