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Spiritual wellness: finding connections for optimal health and successful aging by Donald DeMars, AIA, IIDA

When Colin Milner, founder of the International Council on Active Aging® and publisher of this Developer’s Guide, invited me to submit an article on spiritual wellness, I thought to myself, “Why, my entire life has prepared me to write an article on this subject!” I’m certainly in the “aging cycle” at the age of 67. I’ve had my share of life’s challenges. I’m still extremely productive, and happy every day—all of this I attribute to my spiritual wellness.

Although I’ve spent the last 30 years as an architect and development consultant helping people achieve optimal environments for health, it was an eventful journey reaching this profession.

Beginning with a difficult encounter with polio at age 10 that included two years in an iron lung and left me with paralysis, some back deformity and years of rehabilitative surgeries, I’ve spent my life living with limited vital capacity and post-polio syndrome. I had supportive parents, and the good fortune to encounter a dynamic “significant other”—a young Lutheran pastor who took an interest in me and encouraged me to think about the ministry. This gave my life direction, and motivated me to catch up the four years of school I had missed in just one year’s time. I graduated from college and spent almost three years in the seminary, including one year of clinical counseling training. How then did I become an architect? And what has all of this to do with spiritual wellness? In my third year of seminary, I found out who I was and what I was really meant to do. I left to pursue art and design (it’s in my genes!) and a new calling: To design and develop health and fitness environments conducive to creating quality of life at any age.

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