Elderhood Development. What do we know about Elderhood as a 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 their adulthood for so long, that
they never quite make it into this important stage of human development.
One of the tragedies in much of the economically developed world is that people are so focused on: adult tasks, adult powers and adult responsibilities that they give scant thought to the next stage of human life, their Elderhood Development.
There are even some adults who do not realize that there IS a stage of life after adulthood. They think, well there is adulthood and then comes a long
decline til death. This erroneous view of our human life cycle makes many adults fear growing older. They think that being old as 'less than' being an adult....The think of the last great stage of human development as sort of a 'reverse childhood'; one where we need help and can contribute little to society.
Some researchers believe that one of the reasons why many adults fear their loss of adult powers and adult privilege is
just because they have NO Notion that there is a 'next developmental stage'. No one has spoken to them of Elderhood as a stage of new growth. No one has told adults of the new types of power that accompany Elderhood.
Adults do not realize that this next stage has its own special joys. (Just as many of the special joys of adulthood are unknown to children. )
(If you have not read it already, I suggest that you read Aging Stereotype now.)
Elderhood Deveopment: Some specifics
So what can you expect in your Elderhood Development?
- Elders, when they discuss their lives, speak first and
foremost of Experiencing a New Kind Freedom
- Elders also talk of a new sense of meaning and a basic contentment with life. Their Adulthood was often characterized by striving - striving to be effective parent, a good worker - someone who 'counted' in one circle of acquaintances. Getting recognition for ones contributions or talents was very important
in the years of their adulthood. For some their recognition was through job title or status...or salary or bonus...or the good words of peers or superiors.
But elders do not seem to NEED these things in the same way as they did as adults. Oh, like all human beings recognition helps - though they often can 'carry on' without it.....as is often the case when one lives or works among those who have deeply held Aging Stereotypes Many, though not all, Elderhood Development gets to the point of shrugging off the fact that those in social service organizations or medical facilities seem to view them as 'merely needy' - that such workers do not (or can not) offer experiences for the unique personalities they have acquired.
More than one elder has said of their adult health care or social services workers, "Oh, they try hard but they have no more sense of who I really am, than a child does of its mother. To them I am just an old lady (or man) who has need."
- Elders affirm. They listen and they affirm - sometimes verbally, sometimes with a nod. During a recent illness which left me unable somewhat debilitated
and in need of help with daily tasks, I was struck that my adult friends kept encouraging me that I would 'get my strength and
skills back' while the elder who visited emphasized, "You have been through so much in life, you will get through this too."
or "Remember that you are a strong woman. You will manage this too."
Somehow in my own older years, the second approach really helped. It is a gift to be reminded that our years of living are a strength to us." Such affirmations would be so helpful if younger health care and social service workers could learn this skill of affirming the value of a long life and the sheer endurance it required. Such affirmation offers a real sign that 'this too' can be endured and integrated into our lives. Adults may not need this but elders do AND in my experience it is elders
who seem to know it.
This deep belief and affirmation is one of the Characteristics we see in Nelson Mandela and in Desmond Tutu.=, the founders of the newly formed World Elders See: Elderhood Development: Desmond Tutu's Introduction
The ability to affirm that 'this, too, can be gotten through' is one of the real gifts of Elderhood.
Elderhood Development continued..... Clarifying Elderhood for
communities in the economically developed world may be one of the works for our generation. If you are an elder or know some elders please share your comments or reflections on this topic so others can read them Use the form below.
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