Elderhood - what comes after adulthood

Elderhood is one of the 3 main developmental stages of human life:

  • Childhood is the first stage. Traditionally this first stage has be subdivided into three major groupings :infancy, early and middle childhood and adolescence.

    There are many, many studies of childhood. You can go to most libraries and find that the there are shelves and shelves of books about childhood, what it means, what to expect from a child in each of the 'growth periods', how adults can help children grow into happy, responsible adults etc.

    Childhood is the most researched of the three major life stages. In fact there have been so many studies that many childhood specialists now subdivide this period of life into more stages than just the four listed above.

  • Adulthood is the second major stage of human life. There are fewer studies about adulthood as a stage of human development but there have been some. If you look into the field, you will find that many researchers now divide this period into: young adulthood and full adulthood.
  • Elderhood is the third major stage of human development but almost no one writes about it. Oh, you will find many studies about 'aging' and its problems. And you will find an increasing number of research papers and books about 'old age' and its problems. But 'aging' and 'old age' are chronological stages. They are not really developmental stages of life.

    The third great developmental stage of human life can not be identified solely by age any more than adulthood is identified solely by age. (There are ever so many 19 year olds who have moved into adulthood just as there are 40 year old's who never really left the adolescent stage.)

    Being and elder is a specific social role - one that requires new forms of maturity. It requires approaches to life that go beyond those of one's adult years. And it requires taking on new tasks in and for one's family/community.

So, what do we know about this third stage of human development?

First, we know that not everyone attains it. Just because you have reached a certain age, does not say that you have become an Elder. Some people cling to adulthood so long, that they never quite make it into this next stage of human development.

One of the tragedies of the developed world is that most people are so focused on adulthood: adult tasks, adult powers and responsibility that they give scant thought or attention to the next stage of human development. in fact there are some adults who do not realize that there IS a next stage in human maturity.

Some researchers believe that one of the reasons why many adults fear their loss of adult powers and adult privilege is because they have NO Notion that there is a 'next developmental stage' beyond adulthood.

They do not realize that the next stage of human life is one of growth, that new types of power accompany it or that this next stage has special joys that are unknown to most adults. (Just as many of the special joys of adulthood are unknown to children. )

to be continued.....

To read more about this stage of human development click on:

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Know a great elder?

Do you know someone over age 60 who is living a great Elderhood? Would you share their story with the rest of us?

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