June 27, 2006

New stages of aging

My grandmother is teaching a seminar this year at The New School in New York about the transition from middle-age to elderly. As she explains it, just as the period of adolescence evolved into existence, increasing life spans have created a new period of transition between traditional working years and the elder years.This is not something I am extremely familiar with, but her brief explanation sounded very interesting. It does seem unarguably true that adolescence didn't really exist some time ago; you were basically a child and then all of a sudden you had adult responsibilities, including working to help support your family, among others. Today, there is a distinct phase of increasing responsibility between true dependence and independence, which has its own unique emotional and psychological challenges that there simply may have been no time for in previous generations. The most obvious addition to the phase is psychosexual development and the institution of dating, which of course extends through young adulthood as well.That there now could be an additional period later in life due to longer lives is not so surprising. Retirement is often a step-down process, rather than a cold-turkey stoppage anymore, and at certain ages people are simply in better shape and capable of doing many more things than they used to be.