Spiritual care of chronically and terminally ill Chinese Christian elderly

Mei Fong Chau, Fordham University


This project was designed to understand the spiritual needs of Chinese elderly who are facing death and dying in order to prepare them to embrace illness and death with spiritually and emotionally healthy attitudes. The research question grew out of my experience ministering to Chinese elderly. Semi-structured interviews of two target groups—chronically or terminally ill Chinese Christian elderly and Chinese pastors—provided data and insight for an approach to ministry that prepares and teaches elderly who are facing death. This approach rethinks what should be emphasized or avoided when preparing them for the last phase of their lives and suggests how to provide adequate spiritual care. Aging is a spiritual journey that brings new challenges in the later years of life. As at any age, the spiritual experience of elderly is developmental. At this stage in their journey, older adults search to rearrange routines, adjust expectations or perspective, and redefine life’s meaning. Their Christian life includes both ongoing learning of what it means to be Christian and actualizing those beliefs in their cultural context. Issues of spirituality appear more pressing when the elderly are forced to come to terms with a terminal illness and the rising awareness of one’s own mortality. Their spiritual issues often revolve around self-awareness, relations with others and God, a sense of meaning and purpose, hope, and beliefs. A Christian’s death signifies a belief in a triumphal God who has defeated death and imparts eternal life to temporal human existence. Christians who live their faith everyday with an eternal perspective develop spiritual strength and a capacity to endure the challenges of their last days. Therefore, a ministry of spiritual preparation that begins before the final stage of life will support a ministry that focuses on the dying during their last stage of life. Having that spiritual preparation in place in a church’s ministry will fundamentally affect church life and individual spiritual lives across the lifespan until the end.

Subject Area

Asian American Studies|Spirituality

Recommended Citation

Chau, Mei Fong, "Spiritual care of chronically and terminally ill Chinese Christian elderly" (2015). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI10014278.