Based on Eisenhandler's qualitative research study of men and women, sixty years and older, this volume provides a sociological narrative of religious belief that has been sustained and sometimes changed over the course of life. Through extensive interviews, Eisenhandler explores older adults' personal engagement with religion, the role of socialization in retaining faith in late life, and the extent to which older adults participate in religious behavior and find religious beliefs relevant to their present life. Questions at the core of Eisenhandler's research include: Do older adults today find such good company in the sacred or avail themselves of it? What social behavior is consonant with keeping faith as part of life? Is religion an anchor for the self-identity of older adults? And, how does religion fit into people's worlds as their lives draw to a close?
Susan A. Eisenhandler, PhD, is a professor of sociology at the University of Connecticut. Her qualitative research on age and identity has focused on understanding the meaning and value of interaction and social engagement among community-dwelling older adults. She and the late Gene Thomas, a UCONN colleague, collaborated on research and writing projects, including two books, Aging and the Religious Dimension and Religion, Belief, and Spirituality in Late Life (Springer Publishing Company, 1999). In addition, Dr. Eisenhandler has published scholarly articles that explore the definitions of self and situation that older adults invoke in everyday experiences. Dr. Eisenhandler is an active member of several community and professional organizations and has received grants to create and to facilitate community-based literature programs for older adults.
Introduction: faith as a feature of identity and of late life - the theoretical and methodological context of the study. The bedrock of faith and religion - socialization; the folkways of prayer in late life; other folkways of faith in late life; a grown-up faith with musings, doubts and questions; folkways of faith in long-term care settings - self, soul and space conclusion - beyond a reflexive faith. Appendices: a closer look at several steps in the research process; some social characteristics of the sample.