Old is More than a Number

Old Old at 93Every stage of life or ‘age’ has its own properties or challenges. From infancy through old age, decades seem to have certain characteristics which mark them and make them special, for both the challenges and the rewards. Of course life throws us curves and some heartbreak, how well we have done in mastering each stage in our life will have an impact on the next stage.   Erik Erikson laid out a wonderful thesis of the psycho-social stages of development and the ‘task’ inherent in each. The stage of old age he called, “Integrity vs. Despair.

Old age brings its own array of experiences, and our life span has greatly jumped in the last generation. Health and financial issues in particular are much different from being in one’s 60s versus being in one’s 80s and 90s. However, old age, wherever you mark it has some distinct advantages which take a lifetime to achieve and enjoy- providing you do some inner, psychic work.

~Optimally, we begin to make peace with ourselves later in life. We forgive ourselves and others by judging less severely. We rid ourselves from the clutter of things, and of emotional baggage too. Release the resentments and regrets; do they still really matter so much?

~Success is viewed differently in older age; again we will tend to judge less harshly. Ambition is turned to other things from making it in the world and having a successful business/work life. Who are we now and how is that different from whom we used to be in early adulthood and midlife?

~Find your purpose, in what you do, in your family, in your political and religious beliefs. Who can you mentor? Finding out who we are in old age is an adventure. This may be your time to either reinvent yourself and take up new interest or finally have the time to devote to your hobbies and other pursuits. Be mindful, be present.

~Try doing a life review and see if it turns into a project to leave to your family or the community at large.

~Take a new look at spirituality and where it fits into your belief system. Try Meditation, Tai Chi or Yoga, there is a reason these things are popular now. You’ve gained wisdom and perspective through the years; now make sense of it all.

~Downsize and simplify, you will probably find you need a lot less stuff and clutter. Give some things to the kids and grandkids already. Time becomes a greater commodity and this will play on your inner life. You can shape your time better because work and family aren’t consuming it as in the past. Our focus changes with aging and each new focus can be a wonderful opportunity.

In older age, there isn’t a need to prove, earn, and make your mark; you/we have already arrived!