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Dr Chris Perkins, Selwyn Cetre for Ageing and Spirituality

Eldernet Gazette

Liam Butler interviews Dr Chris Perkins, Director, Selwyn Cetre for Ageing and Spirituality

16 September 2014

Dr Chris Perkins, MB ChB (Otago) FRANZCP, Diploma of Professional Ethics (Auckland) leads The Selwyn Centre for Ageing and Spirituality. She has been a psychiatrist for older people since 1992, and currently works as a locum in addition to her role as Director of the Selwyn Centre for Ageing and Spirituality.

Dr Perkins is also author of the book: Dementia: What you need to know: A guide for People with Dementia, and their Caregivers (Random House 2013)

Dr Perkins why did the Selwyn Foundation establish The Selwyn Centre for Ageing and Spirituality?

The Selwyn Foundation established The Selwyn Centre for Ageing and Spirituality, as New Zealand's voice for the spiritual needs of older people.

The Selwyn Centre for Ageing and Spirituality has three key areas of focus:




The Selwyn Centre for Ageing and Spirituality supports research into spirituality in ageing via scholarships and doing our own research, offers education to people of any spiritual background or none and advocates for the recognition of spirituality in older people and those approaching death.

Question: What workshops are you planning?

As people age and face disability and death, they often reflect on their life and wonder about its meaning. This may be especially so once people are in residential care facing dependency. Often there are few opportunities to talk about the things that matter most and this is where a well-trained pastoral carer can be of great assistance and reassurance. Hence the need to learn more about ways to approach people at this stage of their lives and perhaps to prepare for themselves.

On Sep. 26/27th and Oct 17th/18th 2014 the Rev'd Anne Russell-Brighty from Christchurch will be running workshops on the Pastoral care of Ageing People. Her teaching comes from a broad appreciation of spirituality taking into account a wide range of cultures and life journeys. The course is designed to be interactive and asks participants to work at home as well as during the sessions.

Module 1 (the first of three modules) includes the following sections

• Spirituality. Ageing and ourselves

• Theories of life stages and spiritual journeys

• Ministry of inclusion: people in communities and residential care complexes

• Ministry of understanding: people in grief, people with special needs

• Ministry of Remembering: care for people with dementia and their loved ones

• Self-care, ethical concerns and confidentiality

This course would appeal to people who provide pastoral care to elders either in the community or residential aged care, though anyone church member with an interest in ageing and spirituality would be welcome. It is taught from a Christian view. Visit to learn more.

Dr Perkins what was where your recent Spiritual Reminiscence in Dementia workshops about?

Spiritual reminiscence is an effective means of helping people with dementia to find meaning in their own experience, and interact in meaningful ways with others.The benefits include the affirmation of identity and worth whilst promoting resilience and transcendence; reducing levels of depression; and giving people with dementia a voice with which to express grief, despair, joy, wisdom, insight and humour.

Workshop attendees joined Reverend Dr Elizabeth MacKinlay of the Centre for Ageing and Pastoral Studies, Charles Sturt University, Canberra, and learnt about specific practice issues including how to maximise communication and nurture connections. The role of symbol, ritual and liturgy and how to design an effective spiritual reminiscence programme was also addressed. Liz MacKinlay is a nurse, Anglican priest, PhD researcher... order of Australia and ACT Senior Australian of the year in 2009. One of her current interests is spiritual reminiscence in dementia- her book on the topic ("Finding meaning in the Experience of dementia: the Place of Spiritual Reminiscence Work") won the Australasian Journal on Ageing prize for the best book in 2013.

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