Gerotranscendence and Music Therapy: Supporting a Transpersonal Dimension to Aging

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Photo of Faith Halverson-Ramos

Faith is a Licensed Professional Counselor and MT-BC with a private practice in Colorado. With a background in transpersonal counseling psychology, she is passionate about the use of music to make personal, transpersonal and existential meaning throughout the lifespan. She also serves as the Executive Director of the OCMT.

Gerotranscendence is a theory of aging which suggests that spiritual growth and development plays a vital developmental role in the elder years. Mature gerotranscendence is experienced in part by a person making personal meaning, which helps them shift from identifying with an individual ego self to identifying with a transpersonal Self. This development can be enhanced or hindered by sociocultural and personal experiences.

Lars Tornstam’s theory of gerotranscendence suggests that the elder years allow for the achievement of greater spiritual growth and development which can contribute to increased life satisfaction. In doing this, a person begins, or continues, to shift from identifying with their individual ego self to a self that is more transpersonal in nature. While a developmental potential, mature gerotranscendence is not guaranteed. The development of mature gerotranscendence can be supported or hindered by sociocultural and personal experiences.
Music is currently used in a variety of ways in elder care settings. This seems especially unlikely to change. Because music can facilitate or induce transpersonal experiences in people and help create personal meaning, music therapy could be a beneficial way of supporting the mature gerotranscendence of older adults.

In this lecture, attendees will learn about the theory of gerotranscendence and ways in which music may be used to support the development of mature gerotranscendence. Some possible implications for the use of popular music in addressing the spiritual or existential needs of older adults will also be explored. In addition to learning how music can be beneficial, attendees will be encouraged to examine their own relationship with aging, spirituality and the transpersonal through music.