Saturday, October 10, 2009

Elderhood. What is that?


For Jeni on her 65th birthday. I have known her via the internet since 2006 and although we have never met I consider her a dear friend. So dear friend you have lots before you. It was because of your birthday I started researching aging and I am only three years behind you anyway. I found this inspiring I hope you and others will too.

Many of the books about life after age 60 emphasize how to hold on to youth as aging is viewed as a decline, a series of losses - until you reach the ultimate loss - the loss of life itself. This view of life after age 50 is embedded in much of the current Western literature.  In western culture we do not honour the elderly as many other cultures do, especially since our culture rewards economic contribution and youth, and considers that the aging have nothing to offer. The affects of aging may be inevitable, but these do not lessen a person’s value. In contemporary Western culture, the young are considered more valuable than the elderly .

This is at best a false view of human development after age 60 and at worst it is degrading to those in the last third of their lives

There is an alternative to this view that holds that there are at least three stages of human development: Childhood, adulthood and elderhood and that the goal of human existence is progressive growth though these three stages in order that at the end of  life one is ready to move on because life has been lived fully and completely as child, adult and elder.

It is not considered a loss for a child to move into adulthood but only the losses that an adult faces when moving into elderhood are mourned.  Do not allow yourself to believe that aging is any more about losses than was the transition from childhood to adulthood.

Childhood and adulthood have been researched and written about at length but elderhood the third major stage of human development has almost nothing written about it.    

In the developed world most people are so focused on adulthood, that is, adult tasks, powers and responsibilities that they give little thought to the next stage of human development. Some researchers believe that one of the reasons why many adults fear aging is because they have no idea that there is a another developmental stage beyond adulthood. Freedom is one of the most important aspects of the third stage of human development. Adulthood may be characterized by accomplishment and responsibility but we are taught there is little positive about growing old. 

Psychologists have said that there are more individuals in a room full of eighty year olds than in a room full of 50 year olds. Perhaps the main use of this new freedom in our older years is to become who we truly are - the person that we were made to be.  In fact this becoming who you 'truly are'  could be one of the great tasks at this stage of your life.

Notes taken extensively from Anti Aging Articles 

  • Proverbs 16:31:  Gray hair is a crown of splendour; it is attained by a righteous life.
  • Leviticus 19:32:  Rise in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God.
  • Job 12:12:  Is not wisdom found among the aged?  Does not long life bring understanding?
  • Psalm 92:15:  They shall still bear fruit in old age; they shall be fresh and flourishing, to declare that the Lord is upright.
  • 2 Corinthians 4:16:  Therefore we do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.
  • Ruth 4:15:  He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age.


TechnoBabe said...

Life after sixty brings freedom and contentment and peace that were never in my life before. You wrote a very good post on life in the third stage of life, Berni. Good job.

Jeni said...

Okay -here I am tonight, it's late, I'm tired and I'm scrolling down through the posts on my reader when suddenly I see something that catches my eye. Gee, that looks a lot like my profile photo but be darned if I remember doing any post with that title or even on that topic, for that matter. I did another look-see and then I realize it is Bernie's post and she's using me, my birthday, my picture, to illustrate her point.
All you said in this post makes perfectly good sense to me. After all, if my mind could rule what I want to do in every instance, then, mentally, most of the time my mind tends to think I am still only 30-35 years old. It's when there comes a need to put physical things to use along with mental where my body deceives me -and my mind -and that is what ends up ruling my day then -the darned physical aches and pains and such. But then I stop and think too that for at least 40 of the last 45 years -giving a little time off here and there for pregnancy, raising babies/toddlers, etc -I have worked, usually jobs that required a lot of physical labor too and ya know, I'm perfectly content to pass that baton on to others and concentrate on watching my grandchildren, playing with the embroidery or knitting or sewing, now and again, doing a bit of reading and let others worry about the other stuff!
My turn has finally arrived and I'm gonna enjoy it as much as I can, as much as I can afford anyway. It is a shame that there are a great many of the younger generations though who do regard the seniors as having no intellect, no savvy about anything, not enough money to be significant and therefore, not important. Someday they will find themselves too in the same or similar straites -that is if they live long enough to attain elderhood! Great post and thanks for the publicity too, Bernie!

latt├ęgirl said...

Becoming "who you truly are" is something that is dawning on me at 49, so I'm happy to say I might be a little ahead of the game in elderhood.

In many cultures, of course, elders are revered and respected. But it is true that much of Western "civilization" idolizes youth over maturity.

If you have a library in your town, Grace, you would enjoy the book "In Search of Stones" by M. Scott Peck. It is a book written ostensibly about a 3-week trip with his wife in England and Scotland, but along with being a personal travelogue the book is a constructed by chapters on different topics - one of them being aging; and that chapter is quite beautiful. He talks about the losses (he calls the process "stripping away") - but without putting an overly maudlin spin on it; it's more like the loss of interest in superficial things, and more emphasis on the things that matter. I have seen some of this stripping away in myself already in the past year. It is not unwelcome. And, in the end, we go back to God as ourselves, without all the layers we built up over a lifetime here on Earth.

Get the book if you can, or if not, I can mail you my copy when I'm done.

Thanks for this nice little tribute to our friend Jeni :)

Cicero Sings said...

Good Article. I feel I finally can become who I really am ... since retiring. Best thing is, I got to retire early. I like this stage in my life. I look at young people and think, poor sots ... they've all that stress to go through yet ... I wouldn't trade places with them for the world.

Joy said...

Happy birthday to her. I've seen her around the blogs and have popped on her blog now and then.
Aren't these relationships great that we can develop even over a computer. We really start to care about our blogger friends and their lives.
What a great post and encouraging.


Liz said...

Here's to us older women!