James Ellor, Ph.D. profile photo

James Ellor, Ph.D.

Professor of Social Work


Dr. Ellor works with older adults around issues of mental and spiritual health




Image for publication on Aging and Spirituality: The First DecadeImage for publication on Methods in Religion, Spirituality & AgingImage for publication on Aging, Spirituality, and Pastoral Care: A Multi-National PerspectiveImage for publication on Understanding Religious and Spiritual Aspects of Human Service Practice: 1st (First) EditionImage for publication on Aging, Spirituality, and Religion: A HandbookImage for publication on Enabling the Elderly: Religious Institutions Within the Community Service System (Suny Series on Aging)







Dr. Ellor previously served as professor of human services and gerontology at National - Louis University in Wheaton, Ill., for 21 years. In this capacity he also was the director of the Center for Positive Aging. Concurrent to this position, he served part-time as an on-call chaplain at Edward Hospital in Naperville, Ill. Previously, he was a research associate at the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago. Dr. Ellor works with older adults around issues of mental and spiritual health. He has served on the executive committee of the Midwestern Geriatric Education Center and provides education, counseling, and planning for individuals and groups who work with seniors. His research includes work in endosomal therapy, hunger, spiritual assessment, meaning and aging, role of the church with older adults. More recently, his work has been in volunteer communities as well as disaster behavioral health. He has further developed intervention techniques with cognitively impaired older adults and theological bridges between psychology and theology. He is married to Janet R. Ellor; they are parents of Lisa and Margaret.

Industry Expertise

  • Writing and Editing
  • Elder Care
  • Education/Learning
  • Social Services

Areas of Expertise

Disaster Behavioral HealthMilitary Family CopingStress, Trauma and PTSDMental Health for Older AdultsKnowledge and Attitudes of AgingGrief and Loss Among Alzheimer's PatientsSpiritual Assessment Among the ElderlyHunger among Older AdultsTraining Needs for Paraprofessionals and ProfessionalsThe Role of the Church as Service ProviderMeaning Oriented (Logo) therapy


Chicago Theological Seminary

Ph.D., Personality and Theology


Dissertation Title: An Interdisciplinary Assessment and Critique for a Coherent Model of Spiritual Assessment of the Elderly Comprehensive Exams: Psychologists: Viktor Frankl, Rollo May, Erik Erikson. Theologians: John Calvin, Paul Tillich, Alfred North Whitehead/John Cobb

Chicago Theological Seminary

D.Min., Counseling with Adults and the Elderly


Counseling with Adults and the Elderly. Dissertation topic: Ministry with the Homebound.

McCormick Theological Seminary

M.Div., Pastoral Care with the Elderly


concentrating in Pastoral Care with the Elderly, with dual competency in Social Work.

University of Chicago, School of Social Service Administration

A.M., Social Work with Older Adults


Research, administration and practice working with older adults.

Kent State University

B.A., Sociology


Manchester Cup & Who’s Who on Campus Graduation Awards


  • Journal of Religion, Spirituality and Aging : Editor
  • First Presbyterian Church of Waco : Parish Associate

Media Appearances

Feeling Lonely? Experts Discuss 9 Things to Do When You’re Feeling Alone

Yahoo! Life  online


James Ellor, Ph.D., D. Min., professor emeritus of family studies at Baylor’s Diane R. Garland School of Social Work, is quoted in this article on loneliness and effective coping skills.

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McLennan County COVID-19 deaths top 500, active case count climbs higher

Waco Tribune-Herald  online


Jim Ellor, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, The Dorothy Barfield Kronzer Endowed Professor in Family Studies and professor at the Diana R. Garland School of Social Work, explains how trauma and grief responses have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Mother's Day comes with added challenges at Waco-area senior centers

Waco Tribune-Herald  online


Baylor gerontologist Jim Ellor, Ph.D., a professor of social work, said it's important to keep contact with seniors in living centers for their emotional well-being during this time of near-quarantine and on Mother's Day.

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Baylor Gerontology Expert Shares Tips to Care for Aging Population During Coronavirus Pandemic

Baylor Media and Public Relations  online


James Ellor, Ph.D., The Dorothy Barfield Kronzer Endowed Professor in Baylor University’s Diana R. Garland School of Social Work, is an expert on working with older adults as well as disaster behavioral health. He said it’s important to continue to support older adults who are self-isolating in their homes and in long-term care facilities during this time of uncertainty.

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Stop using the Bible to justify poverty and hunger

The Dallas Morning News  print


Jeremy Everett, M.Div. ’01, founder and executive director of Baylor’s Texas Hunger Initiative, writes in this guest column that “If we ever hope to solve our nation's hunger and poverty crisis, we must know the truth about it. What are its causes? Why are people poor and hungry? Are we collectively responsible for the health and well-being of our impoverished brothers and sisters?”

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How America Fails To Feed Its Aging

El Semanario  print


Jeremy Everett, founder and executive director of the Texas Hunger Initiative, is quoted in this article on senior citizens and food insecurity as nearly 8% of Americans 60 and older were “food insecure” in 2017, according to a recent study released by the anti-hunger group Feeding America.

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Smith County Food Security Council hosts educational event about hunger

Tyler Morning Telegraph  print


Jeremy Everett, M.Div. ’01, founder and executive director of Baylor University’s Texas Hunger Initiative and author of the book, “I Was Hungry: Cultivating Common Ground to End an American Crisis,” spoke at the No Hungry Neighbors: Community-Wide Awareness Event hosted by the Smith County Food Security Council. The council hosted the event to demonstrate the effects hunger can have on people and the need to work together to address the issue.

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Working Together to Help Those Stranded by Hunger Disaster

Ethics Daily  online


Excerpt from the book, “I Was Hungry: Cultivating Common Ground to End an American Crisis,” by Jeremy Everett, M.Div. ’01, founder and executive director of Baylor University’s Texas Hunger Initiative, about how his experiences working in disaster response is similar to what he has learned about addressing hunger and poverty. “The problem is often overwhelming, and we need to find a way to work together in a coordinated response to address these issues that have been around for thousands of years,” he wrote.

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Starving Seniors: How America Fails To Feed Its Aging

Kaiser Health News  online


Jeremy Everett, executive director of Baylor University’s Texas Hunger Initiative, is one of several experts quoted in this story about seniors and hunger. “Ten years ago, organizations had a goal of ending child hunger and a lot of innovation and resources went into what could be done,” Everett said. “The same thing has not happened in the senior adult population.” Everett is the author of the new book, “I Was Hungry.”

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Despair is killing Americans. Here's how people of faith can help

Deseret News  online


Jim Ellor, Ph.D., professor in Baylor’s Diana R. Garland School of Social Work, is a featured expert in this story about America’s “epidemic of despair” and how people of faith can help. Ellor said that almost all chaplains that he has surveyed believe in a benevolent God, but at least a third of people sitting in the pews subscribe to the idea of a judgmental God who may or may not help them with their problems, contributing to a pervasive sense of hopelessness. “(Pastors) need to be clear about who God is,” Ellor said. “We need to be talking about how God can be helpful.”

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Baylor Gerontology Expert: Signs that Your Loved One is Suffering Elder Abuse

Baylor University  online


Each year, an estimated 5 million older adults are abused, neglected or exploited, according to the Administration for Community Living. Gerontology expert James Ellor, Ph.D., M.Div., professor in Baylor University’s Diana R. Garland School of Social Work, said World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is an appropriate time to remind people of what elder abuse looks like and how they can respond if they see the signs.

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Baylor Connections – Jim Ellor, Professor of Social Work

KWBU-FM (Waco/NPR)  radio


AUDIO: On this episode of Baylor Connections, host Derek Smith interviews Jim Ellor, Ph.D., professor of social work in Baylor University’s Diana R. Garland School of Social Work, gerontologist and bi-vocational minister, about working and living with older adults, mental health, the spirituality of aging and more.

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Five years after blast, West is rebuilt but emotional tripwires remain

Waco Tribune-Herald  print


This article about the fifth anniversary of the deadly fire and explosion in West, Texas, features Jim Ellor, Ph.D., professor in Baylor’s Diana R. Garland School of Social Work. Ellor has volunteered to provide counseling in West over the last five years. He said long-term stress has continued around the community. “There is always a sense of, if I live in West and there’s a fire, I won’t go to my picture window to watch it,” he said. “It hits so deeply, the new normal is to still have some scars from it.”

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What is normal? It is just a setting on the dryer

HuffPost Lifestyle  


Rev. Dr. James Ellor of Baylor University School Of Social Work has noted: “Death is a projective process (Irving Yalom) According to Ecclesiastes, the conception of life was described as being a puff of wind. The choice becomes how do we use our time, past, present, future and not enough. Death stacks up on us as we grow older, losses become tougher to work with. A worthy question to ask someone who is experiencing loss is what’s changed in your life since the last time you got through a similar experience?”

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What Alzheimer's disease teaches us about the soul

Deseret News  


When he was a chaplain at a nursing home in Chicago, the Rev. James Ellor decided to try an experiment. He found a Sunday school book from the turn of the century, selected the most popular hymns and Bible verses from that time period, and designed a worship service for dementia patients, who had been banned from the chapel after new carpet was installed because of their incontinence.

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Crisis intervention team from Baylor University receives state award for volunteer efforts in west

Baylor Media Communications  


James W. Ellor, Ph.D., a professor in the School of Social Work at Baylor, and Sara Dolan, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychology and neuroscience in Baylor's College of Arts & Sciences, have been chosen for a major state award for their volunteer crisis intervention work in the city of West following the fertilizer plant explosion in April in which 15 people were killed.

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Association Between Negative Emotional States and Unhealthy Nutritional Behaviors in Soldiers

Military Behavioral Health

Ahmed Ismaeel ORCID Icon, Suzy Weems, James W. Ellor, Janet Crow, Dennis Myers, Sara Dolan, Janice Whitacre & Sandra B. Morissette


The purpose of this study was to assess the relationship between food consumption behaviors and measures indicative of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and negative emotional states, including depression, anxiety, and stress. Soldiers (N = 351) preparing to deploy from Fort Hood completed a series of self-report measures. Those with higher stress and anxiety had less healthy nutritional consumption habits, including eating significantly more fast food and sweets. Further, those with high anxiety ate more when in serious pain than those with low anxiety. In conclusion, soldiers with higher levels of stress and anxiety had a greater risk for less healthy diet quality, which can influence overall health and well-being.

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Family-of-origin and service-member resilience

Journal of Family Social Work

Janet R. Crow, Dennis R. Myers, James W. Ellor, Sara Dolan, Janice Whitacre & Sandra Morissette


Military research on family resilience has not examined the contribution of family-of-origin to resilience of service-members. In this study, researchers investigated the extent to which predeployed service-members’ perception of resilience was related to characteristics of family-of-origin. The sample consisted of 344 U.S. Army soldiers within 6 months of deployment to Afghanistan, contacted through their units and invited to participate. Soldiers completed a survey of perceived resilience, family-of-origin and immediate family variables, and social support. Data were also collected on age, income, ethnicity, number of deployments, and relationship status. Regression analyses were conducted to explain variation in service-member resilience scores. Sample demographics were compared with the active duty soldier population and correlations among the key family-of-origin and social support variables were reported. Family-of-origin satisfaction was moderately related to service-member resilience for the full sample (β = .176, p = .001) and married sample (β = .260, p = .000). It was weakly related in the unmarried sample (β = .147, p = .226). Family social support explained the most variation in resilience across all samples. Study limitations and guidelines and resources for social work practice, education, and research to strengthen family-of-origin and service-member resilience are provided.

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Lessons Learned from Disaster: Behavioral Health for Social Workers and Congregations

Social Work and Christianity


When a disaster hits a community, it always seems like a surprise, despite planning, preparation, and knowledge of the history of such events. From the perspective of the individual and the community, disaster recovery, from immediately following the event to the end of the long-term recovery effort, is a journey. While every disaster situation is unique, common threads of disaster reaction and process, or recovery, can be picked up and employed to enhance emotional/spiritual health efforts by the community. In this article, the authors combine their experience working with several different disasters into one fictitious community, called Home Town. This article walks through the journey from preparation to final recovery with this community discussing common challenges for social workers and clergy and offering suggestions at each step along the way

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Religion and Spirituality among Older Adults in Light of DSM-5

Social Work and Christianity


With the introduction of DSM-5 the age-old debate as to the role of religion and spirituality in mental health is once again engaged. Like DSM IV, DSM-5 continues to offer V Code, 62.89, Religious or Spiritual Problem. However, it also offers an expanded understanding of culture and the impact of culture in diagnosis. As a part of the author's discussion, DSM-5 includes spirituality as a critical factor in culture. This article explores some of the history of the debate on religion and spirituality in the mental health and gerontology literature, asking if the delegation of religion and spirituality to culture is adequate to understand the fullness of the historic debate over their role in counseling practice with older adults.

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DSM 5, Mental Health, Spirituality, Culture: Helpful or Restrictive Interfaces?

Health and Social Work


Social Work and Congregations: A Timely Alliance for the Age of Aging

Christianity and Social Work


Six articles, practice note, and a book review offer new insights and approaches for collaborative social work, congregational, and religiously-affiliated organizational impact on the personal, relational, and spiritual well-being of persons 55+.

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Identifiable Grief Responses in Persons with Alzheimer's disease

Journal of Social Work in End-of-Life Palliative Care


Various dementias alter many aspects of the life and interactions between older adults and their families. This is particularly true even in a context in which the emotion is one that is expected. One such experience is the grief related to the loss of a family member. Physicians, nurses, and family members in long-term care report that they frequently have residents for whom a primary loved one, such as a spouse, has died. Questions quickly surface as to whether or not to tell the senior with dementia, how to tell the person, and how that person's response will impact the family. In two separate focus groups these questions were discussed with a group of family members and an interdisciplinary group of physicians, nurses, nurse aides, and social workers connected to long-term care facilities in one mid-sized community. Three patterns of resident response were identified. "Self-threat" describes situations in which the individual responds to the announcement of the death by questioning who will take care of them now; substitution refers to the individual's inability to remember who has died and substitution with a relative who died years ago; and metaphone, substitution of an object or unrelated item for the loss of a loved one. The authors suggest that persons with dementia should be told in most circumstances that their loved one has died, but that behavioral interventions need to be designed to address the confusion that this announcement can initiate. Families need to be prepared that the senior may not respond in the ways they once would have to this loss.

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Integrating Content on Organized Religion into Macropractice Courses

Journal of Social Work Education

F. Ellen Netting , Jane M. Thibault & James W. Ellor


This paper examines organized religion as a driving force within the social welfare state and looks at religious organizations as human service providers. Following a brief historical overview, the contemporary significance of organized religion for special population groups is discussed. Information is presented on religious institutions, religiously affiliated organizations, and religious congregations for incorporation into existing courses in social work policy, organization, administration, and community practice.

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