Music and gerotranscendence: A culturally responsive approach to ageing — Faith Halverson-Ramos

Special Issue 11 (1) 2019 “Exploring the spiritual in music: Interdisciplinary dialogues in music, wellbeing and education” – Article (first published on 24 November 2019)

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Music and gerotranscendence: A culturally responsive approach to ageing

Faith Halverson-Ramos

SoundWell Music Therapy, USA


Gerotranscendence is a theory of ageing which suggests that transpersonal growth and development is intrinsic to human development and plays a vital developmental role in the elder years. Mature gerotranscendence is experienced through a 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, including one’s own worldview.

Today’s older adults in America are diverse, and each faces a unique ageing experience to which music therapists must be sensitive. In addition to potentially living more years with chronic illness and possible financial concerns, those from cultures with a history of sociocultural discrimination face additional challenges in ageing. This leaves the possibility that many may experience increased existential questioning and personal insecurity than previous generations.

Music is commonly used in working with older adults within elder care settings. Music has also traditionally been used to facilitate spiritual healing and transcendence. Because music can cross cultural lines, while also being an effective tool for meaning-making, I suggest that music can be a powerful and culturally-aware way of helping older adults experience mature gerotranscendence. This article is an opinion piece based on my experience as a music therapist with a transpersonal orientation. In this context, I highlight the unique psychosocial challenges faced by older Americans today and suggest the theory of gerotranscendence as a way of understanding their therapeutic needs. I then discuss ways of, and considerations for, using music to support the development of mature gerotranscendence.


gerotranscendence, music, culturally-responsive eldercare, spirituality, ageing


Faith Halverson-Ramos is a Licensed Professional Counselor and board-certified music therapist who owns and operates the community mental health-oriented private practice, SoundWell Music Therapy, in Colorado, USA. With an MA in Transpersonal Counseling Psychology from Naropa University, Faith works with people of all ages from a place of mindfulness, playfulness, and radical acceptance. []