Sally Mordike

Proposed Title

The experience of homefulness: Exploring the depth of meaning of home for older people living with dementia


The qualitative research explores the deep meaning of ‘home,’ from a spiritual perspective, for older people with early- to mid-stage dementia, who are living in the community. Walter Brueggemann’s description of homefulness – “being with and belonging with God and being with and belonging with the neighbour in community” – provides the conceptual framework. Using a hermeneutic phenomenological research approach, in-depth interviews will explore the research question: What is the experience of homefulness for older people with early- to mid-stage dementia, living in the community? The research is significant as it fills a gap in current literature around the meaning of home by focussing on the person with dementia who is living in the community (not residential care), listening to their voice (not their carers’), and exploring the meaning of home from a spiritual point of view (not bio-psycho-social perspectives). Expected outcomes include gaining a deeper understanding of the concept of homefulness and how it is experienced; empowering older people with dementia to live their lives to the full; and challenging the way people living with dementia are viewed, treated, and spoken about, therefore contributing to the eradication of the malignant psychology that surrounds dementia.

Why I chose Charles Sturt

I began my Charles Sturt studies with a Graduate Certificate in Pastoral Counselling, in 2016.  The very first unit, Pastoral Counselling Skills, was simply outstanding; it encouraged me to reflect deeply on my life, my values, why I was studying, and what skills I already had and those I needed to develop. The rest of the course was stimulating and interesting – and I was hooked.

I continued studying with the Master of Ageing and Spirituality degree, which I had first heard about it back in the early 2000s, and had always longed to do, as I was interested in both older people and spirituality. The richness of the subjects far exceeded my expectations, and having the flexibility of online study meant I could take my ‘work’ anywhere, and the deep reflection questions each week often lead to some intriguing and thought-provoking discussions around the dining table with family!

I completed the Masters degree mid-2020, with a research project looking into the meaning of home for older people living in residential aged care. Being with the participants and hearing their stories was a privilege, and incredibly rewarding, confirming for me that I was in the right place, studying something that was meaningful and important.

Consequently I have now embarked on doctoral studies full-time, investigating the meaning of home for older people living with dementia. I look forward to listening to older people’s narratives, valuing their lived experiences, and learning where they find meaning, belonging, and their sense of home.

Engagement and memberships

Adjunct Research Associate, Centre for Religion, Ethics and Society (previously Centre for Public and Contextual Theology), Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture) & Centre for Ageing and Pastoral Studies, Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture.

International Conference on Ageing and Spirituality Planning Committee member


2021 National Conference: Paper presentation
Title: Homely, but not home: The spiritual meaning of ‘home’ for residents living in aged care
54th National AAG Conference (online), November 2021

2021 International Conference: Video presentation
Title: Home or homely? Spiritual meaning of ‘home’ for residents in aged care
9th International Conference on Ageing and Spirituality (online), June 2021

2021 Publication: Peer-reviewed journal
Mordike, S. L. (2021). Home, or just homely? The meaning of home for residents in aged care, from a spiritual perspective. St Mark’s Review, 255(1), 44-58.

2020 Co-author with Rev Prof Elizabeth MacKinlay and Dr Ann Harrington: Major report
MacKinlay, E., Harrington, A., & Mordike, S. L. (2020). Dementia in the Australian community: Beyond the bio-medical paradigm [Unpublished report]. Charles Sturt University.

2020 Co-author with Rev Prof Elizabeth MacKinlay and Dr Richard Burns: Major report
MacKinlay, E., Burns, R., & Mordike, S. L. (2020). Finding meaning in the lived experience of frailty: Final report of project, stage 2. [Unpublished report]. Charles Sturt University.

2019 International Conference: Paper Presentation
Title: The lived experience of older people with frailty: finding meaning in the last lap of life
8th International Conference on Ageing and Spirituality, Canberra, October 2019

2019 National Conference: Paper and poster presentations
Title: The lived experience of frailty: finding meaning
52nd Australian Association of Gerontology Conference, Sydney, November 2019

Current candidate profiles