Derrel R. WATKINS, Editor, Practical Theology for Aging. Binghamton, NY: Haworth Pastoral Press, 2003. Pp. 225. $24.95 pb. ISBN 0-7890-2227-3.
Reviewed by John C. MEYER, Bradley University, PEORIA, IL 61625

The title of this book very adequately reflects its contents. The book is written especially for all those in the Christian ministry who seek to understand the aging process and its implications for pastoral care. The fourteen chapters written by practitioners in the field of gerontological issues cover a multitude of topics of special concern to senior citizens. Grounded in biblical faith the authors seek to deal with the barriers to the spiritual wellness of the elderly. The chapters seek to replace older and outdated stereotypical myths and views of the elderly with up-to-date information about the aging process, suffering, and death. An ever recurring theme throughout the chapters is that the journey into old age does not have to be filled with dread and fear but can be seen as a path to spiritual maturity. While viewing the aging process, the book emphasizes the wholeness of humans and the living of one's entire life in the light of the belief in the resurrection. In that context, lots of practical advice is given for aging well while the emphasis is on the integration of the wholeness of one's mind, body, and spirit.

The range of issues covered in this book include topics such as pain, suffering and illness, sexuality, dementia and Alzheimer's disease, the prospect of imminent death, negative vs. positive attitudes toward aging, creativity, worship, spiritual growth, and productivity in later life, all with direct reference to the seniors in our society. These issues are addressed with biblical and theological foundations that include the practice of the Christian ministry itself. The chapters are well researched and very positive to the aging process. As a matter of fact, it is stated by one author that a "recent issue of the AARP Bulletin indicated many people in their seventies prefer to refer to themselves as 'older middle age'" (p. 144). As the final chapter of the book, which deals with ministering to people who are over eighty years of age, concludes: "All of society, old and young alike, can truly learn that aging is not what it used to be" (p. 211).

The editor of this book has done an excellent service of bringing together a wealth of current information and practical advice not only for religious leaders of Christian denominations and health care providers working with older adults but also for the elderly themselves. Especially would pastoral theology classes in seminaries find this book immensely helpful and relevant.

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