Late adulthood, also known as old age, is understood in popular culture as the last period of our life.. This is true, but it is not only that, it is also the time when we take our well deserved rest and, taken properly, it can be a time of personal growth and development.
In cases where events like retirement or the death of a spouse are not handled well, this stage can spell loneliness and isolation, as well as physical and mental health issues.
Personality differences and the way we cope in late adulthood are key, an issue we’ll explore in depth below.
What is the end of adulthood?
Late adulthood, also known as old age, old age, or old age, it starts at 60 and ends just as life does. It is characterized by a gradual decline in the functioning of all the body’s systems, with a gradual loss of strength and cognitive abilities, in addition to being more likely to present pathologies of all kinds and neurological disorders.
This is a somewhat controversial stage because some theorists directly call it “old age”, characterized by old age without more or less. Its starting point is also debated, although it is agreed that it would start between the ages of 60 and 65 and end at the time of death.
Because people can live very well, there are cases of people who are 120 years old, late adulthood may be the longest time in life, although it is also worth mentioning that in other cases it can be bad luck to die relatively early, at just 70 years old.
It is very important that when this stage is reached, every effort is made to maintain good physical and mental health.. It is essential to do a physical activity from time to time, in addition to being mentally active and doing relaxing activities so as not to subject the body to too much stress, which is detrimental for it.
In addition, as older people are at risk of being trapped in loneliness and are weaker, it is essential that they relate to their peers and family members, as well as be vigilant to ensure that they have everything they need.
Physical and psychological characteristics
There are several characteristics that we can highlight in late adulthood.
At the end of adulthood there are several physical changes, all related to the decline of the body. While they are not necessarily synonymous with illness or medical problems, the fact is that the body in old age is more susceptible to pathologies and physical alterations, such as joint pain or injury more often.
Some of the physical changes that we can observe in old age are loss of texture and elasticity of the skin, total thinning and graying of hair, loss of bone and muscle mass, loss of teeth and hair problems. gums, degraded vision and a propensity for osteoporosis. The body is more fragile, which increases the risk of developing diseases that can become chronic, such as diabetes, rheumatism or arthritis.
In terms of psychological characteristics, it should be mentioned that there has been a debate about how cognitive abilities are in old age. Here, the controversy is similar to that of middle adulthood, as it is true that memory, attention, concentration and the ability to solve new problems are lost, but also, as long as there is has no dementia. , the amount of knowledge increases and so does it. the experience of life.
Fluid intelligence, which is the ability to solve new problems, declines with old age. However, crystallized intelligence, based on experience and learning, tends to maintain or increase, albeit moderately. Although it is more difficult to learn new things, you never stop doing it.
In recent years, two terms have become very common in the literature for how progress is made at this stage: successful aging and optimal aging. Using these terms suggests that there is a better or better way to age. Anyway, it’s worth mentioning that growth, in the sense of personal development, continues to give way to old age and many older people who feel healthy, competent and in control of their lives experience this stage not as an inevitable end, but as a very positive stage in which they can explore what they feel younger could not. not.
People with more outgoing traits tend to experience the first few years of old age with positive emotions and happiness, seeing it as an opportunity to try new things or take a well-deserved break. On the other hand, people with a neurotic tendency often experience this stage in a negative way, with worry and fear in the face of uncertainty, as well as perceiving that old age is the moment when people cease to be useful to society.
Erik Erikson sees old age as the last stage of the life cycle whose characteristic conflict is self-integrity in the face of despair. The elderly must assess, synthesize and accept their life, admitting that death is upon them.. Those who are more outgoing or have a more positive mindset will strive to find a sense of consistency and integrity instead of giving in to despair at their inability to relive the past in a different way.
Arguably the most positive elders, instead of being obsessed and obsessed with what they didn’t do in their youth, try to take the bull by the horns and make your old age meaningful, profitable and happy. Those who don’t are overwhelmed by the desperation of realizing that their time is running out to find other paths to self-integrity, as Erikson suggests.
- Crain, W. (2011). Erikson and the eight stages of life. Development Theories: Concepts and Applications. Boston: Pearson.
- Berger, KS (2001). Developmental psychology: adulthood and old age. Madrid: Editorial Médica Panamericana, SA
- Brody, Elaine M. (2010). “To be very, very old: a privileged point of view. The gerontologist. 50 (1): 2-10. doi: 10.1093 / geront / gnp143