Gerotranscendence: Becoming Older and More Spiritual Too

Gerotranscendence is a big word that simply refers to the way people’s perspectives shift as they age. Many individuals become more spiritual, and they often care more deeply about religion and life’s big questions. Dr. Marc E. Agronin, the keynote speaker at BYU’s 2017 Gerontology Conference, said older individuals who pray, attend church, and engage in religious activities tend to live longer. They are less likely to experience depression, and they often enjoy many other health benefits.

You can watch some of the highlights of Dr. Agronin’s keynote address in the video below. And of course, keep following our blog to learn more about gerontology — its ups, its downs, and everything in between.

Dr. Agronin’s full lecture is available here.

This post is thirty-second in a series of videos available in our new BYU Social Sciences YouTube channel! The channel contains tidbits of many of our most popular lectures and useful, succinct, research-backed advice on relationship, political, religious, media, and financial issues. Follow us there to stay up-to-date on wisdom that will help you and your family live better lives.


Building the Better Older Brain: What it is and How to do It

“There is no ‘cure’ for aging, only ways to grow stronger and live a fulfilling life,” said Dr. Marc E. Argonin at a recent Gerontology conference presentation. “The attitude makes an enormous difference.” The better the attitude, the better the brain. How well your brain functions depends on the connections that have been formed in your brain. The more connected you are, the stronger your brain is, particularly in these three ways, or as Dr. Argonin called them, “pillars:”

  • Reserve: your protective base of skills and attributes
  • Resilience: your ability to rebalance in the face of change
  • Reinvention: your effort to develop creative solutions

Dr. Argonin added that the elderly brain tends to focus more on the positive. Because of their age, older people tend not to put things off and may have a broader, more altruistic, world perspective. Thus, they tend to be wiser, which is another key attribute of a healthy older brain, according to the psychiatrist. He defined that wisdom as multifaceted and cultural, allowing individuals to apply experiences. He listed five different types of wise people:

  • Savant: possessing accumulated knowledge, experience, skills
  • Sage: possessing a broad and balanced perspective
  • Curator: possessing empathy and caring for others and for cultural relics or rituals
  • Creator: possessing the talents of an artist, builder, or innovator
  • Seer: possessing spirituality, acceptance, and transcendence



How do we get to this “better older brain?” Dr. Argonin advised the obvious: exercise, physical and mental. However, he said, nobody knows what truly causes people to live longer, and there are no miracle pills or fountains of youth. While there is cognitive impairment associated with age, there are traits and skills we can learn that will combat these impairments. He, like Robert Arking, defines aging as “a ‘time-dependent series of cumulative, progressive, intrinsic, and positive cognitive, emotional, and behavioral changes that usually begin to manifest themselves at mid-life and eventually culminate in increased well-being.”  And, like the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, he believes that age is opportunity no less/Than youth itself, though in another dress,/And as the evening twilight fades away/The sky is filled with stars, invisible by day.”

His full presentation, as well as those of the other presenters at the conference, can be viewed here.

What are your thoughts on aging?

Late-Life Health & Brain Training:New Information

And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.

-Abraham Lincoln

BYU’s Gerontology Program is holding its annual Russell B. Clark Gerontology Conference on March 16 and March 17.  The program offers presentations from leaders in the field and additional speakers from across the United States.

Michael Marsiske, PhD, an Associate Professor and Associate Chair for Research in the Department of Clinical and Health Psychology at the University of Florida will talk about how computers, treadmills, and video games are the new “arsenal” for late-life brain training. His presentation will be very worthwhile for all disciplines!

The event will also include:

  • Jonathan Wisco, PhD, an Associate Professor and Director of the Laboratory for Translational Anatomy of Degenerative Disease and Developmental Disorders, College of Life Sciences, Department of Physiology and Developmental Biology, and Neuroscience Center at Brigham Young University, and
  • Laura Bridgewater, PhD, an Associate Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Biology at Brigham Young University.

Dr. Marsiske will deliver the keynote address on Wednesday evening and Doctors Wisco’s and Bridgewater’s presentations will be deliver Thursday March 17th at 11 a.m.. Event sponsors says the event is for those with any interest in gerontology, or who take care of a senior citizen. All are welcome to attend the event.

The Gerontology program offers both a minor and a certificate qualifying graduates to work with the elderly in many different domains. Explore the Gerontology Program website or visit the gerontology secretary (located with the School of Family Life in 2086 JFSB) for more information.


Feature image courtesy of Flickr.