Seniors Serving Seniors
We live in a youth-oriented culture, and older individuals are often overlooked. However there is a societal shift that looks positively to life after sixty as a period of continued growth, productivity, and enjoyment. Our challenge is to pursue and embrace the second half of life with curiosity, challenge, and fulfilling activity.
Aging involves predictable developmental transitions. Society magnifies the challenges of aging and associates aging with problems. A more balanced view sees these challenges as predictable, normal transitions. Despite the stereotype of seniors living for years in institutions, most live independently much of their lives with family members providing some assistance.
“Quality of life” is typically defined as a person’s health and the ability to perform daily activities. However, the narrative of our life explains much more about the quality of our life. It is a powerful testimony of who we are. Storytelling connects us to people in the present as well as to people in our past. We have a sense of well being and belonging when others know who we are by the stories we tell.
What are your beliefs about the transitions in life after age sixty? In your community are seniors respected or avoided? Some cultures value seniors, age, and wisdom while others avoid and ignore those in their second half of life and its transitions. Just as laying good foundations is important in the early years of one’s life, continuing to grow and embrace life is essential to aging well.
The landscape of the retirement years is changing. Retirement is no longer simply slipping away from work and responsibilities to pursue leisure and travel or to disengage from meaningful relationships. Contemporary theories of aging focus on productive aging and activity. Current theories promote a continuity of meaningful engagement in existing roles and responsibilities or discovery of new involvements. Many seniors and those approaching senior years want to give time and energy to purposeful service beyond themselves.
Through the 12 Conversations program seniors become a valuable resource of wisdom and encouragement for one another. By engaging in peer conversations seniors experience a sense of life integrity and greater satisfaction with their lives. They support one another through the natural and predictable stages and developmental tasks of the second half of life.
All seniors need relationships. Some seniors are lonely, despairing, and not aging well. They need to be known and have someone with whom to share their current life. Fellow seniors are the ideal people to engage in these conversations for outreach to seniors who need to be touched with time, caring, and friendship.
Ego Integrity versus Despair
The developmental psychologist, Erik Erikson described human development in eight stages built on social needs throughout the lifespan. The last stage is entitled, “Ego Integrity versus Despair.” Erikson’s task for adults 60 – 75+ years of age is to engage in introspection. Success at this stage leads to feelings of satisfaction with life and a sense of wisdom, while failure in this stage results in regret, bitterness, loneliness, and despair.
Other elements of this stage of adult development involve: 1. Life review and sharing stories with others of their experiences, thus promoting a sense of unity with self and others. 2. Wisdom and confidence that comes from taking a historical perspective on the “whole” of one’s life. 3. Intellectual vigor and redirecting energy to new roles and activities. 4. Conscious trust in self and assurance about the meaningfulness of one’s life. 5. Developing a point of view about death and coping with physical changes of aging.
Seniors experience various life changes and events at differing times and with differing sequences. One senior already may have life experience with which the other senior has little experience. At other times they may both be equally experienced and may simply share and enjoy their journey and stories together. Theses conversations are like hiking where one person at times may be in the lead and at other times both may be walking side-by-side.
Our lives are shaped by our relationships with others. Senior-to-senior conversations provide an opportunity to be shaped by conversational friendship. Listening to someone share the story of his or her life and telling our story enhances the quality of life of both individuals. We remember with integrity, pride, and humility our life, our loved ones, our blessings, and our continuing journey of becoming who we are.
If you would like to listen to an overview of this program on the internet, go to http://drop.io/SeniorConversations for an audio file and PowerPoint presentation.
See the order page for these conversation guides. I hope you will enjoy wisdom and new friendships through Life After Sixty: 12 Conversations for Active Living!
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Check out our new website! www.12SeniorConversations.com