The Role of Spirituality in Conceptualizations of Health Maintenance and Healthy Aging Among Latin American Immigrants

The American journal of geriatric psychiatry : official journal of the American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry

Am J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2021 Nov;29(11):1079-1088. doi: 10.1016/j.jagp.2021.04.017. Epub 2021 May 5.


OBJECTIVES: We aimed to investigate ways in which spirituality was conceptualized in relationship to maintaining brain health and healthy aging in a cohort of older adults who immigrated to the United States from diverse regions of Latin America, in order to ultimately develop culturally-tailored brain health promotion approaches.

DESIGN: We conducted a qualitative study using semi-structured interviews.

SETTING: Participants were recruited from community centers and by a memory care center at a large academic medical center.

PARTICIPANTS: We interviewed 30 Spanish-speaking immigrants over age 60. Questions addressed perspectives about the brain, aging, and dementia. Interviews were coded for themes.

MEASUREMENTS: Thematic analysis was used to analyze participants' responses.

RESULTS: We identified 5 themes: (1) expressing gratitude to God for mental and physical health, (2) putting the onus of life and death in God's hands, (3) using church as a place to socialize and build community as an approach to leading a healthy lifestyle, (4) using prayer as nourishment for the soul and the brain, and (5) gaining inner-peace and calm, and thus maintaining a healthy life, due to a connection with God.

CONCLUSION: The incorporation of customized spiritual interventions may be a mechanism by which to increase the effectiveness of brain health promotion efforts.

PMID:34092458 | DOI:10.1016/j.jagp.2021.04.017


Sophia Weiner-Light
Katherine P Rankin
Serggio Lanata
Katherine L Possin
Daniel Dohan
Alissa Bernstein Sideman