Positive phases usher in aging process

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWhicker: Clemson demonstrates that it’s tough to knock out the champFreud was not the only one with a limited view. Jean Piaget, who contributed greatly to our understanding of cognitive development, believed that development stopped in young adulthood, followed by a slow downhill decline. Erik Erikson, who delineated the eight stages of psychosocial development, refers to development after adulthood as a single stage that can last 50 years. Giving credit where it is due, he was one of the first influential thinkers to propose that we can develop throughout our lives. He also noted that his work was not complete and invited students to complete it. Cohen was one of his students and took the assignment seriously. Cohen has used his study of more that 3,000 older adults to identify four distinct developmental phases of life. In his book “The Mature Mind: The Positive Power of the Aging Brain” (Basic Books 2005), he asserts that people enter these phases with “inner drives, desires and urges that wax and wane throughout life.” He calls these drives the “inner push,” the fuel that motivates development. They occur as the brain undergoes physiological changes, many of them positive. Dr. Gene Cohen, conference keynote speaker and director of the Center on Aging, Health & Humanities at George Washington University, presented a refreshing perspective on aging. “The problem is not about denying the very real problems associated with aging,” he said. “It’s about denying the very real potential associated with aging.” He noted that our negative views of aging are rooted in history. For example, Sigmund Freud’s view of older adults was narrow. He is quoted as saying, “About the age of 50, the elasticity of the mental processes on which treatment depends is as a rule, lacking. Old people are no longer educable.” Here are the phases: Midlife Re-evaluation Phase: This phase typically applies to those between 40 and 65. It is a time for exploration and transition. Cohen’s research indicates that people in this phase undergo a profound re-evaluation of themselves. They ask questions such as “Where am I now? “Where am I going?” “Where have I been?” Rather than a mid-life crisis, it is a time of quest. Liberation Phase: This phase applies to those in their late 50s, 60s and into their 70s. They want to experiment and free themselves of obligations and inhibitions. As this shift occurs, the brain is undergoing physiological changes including sprouting new connections between brain cells and using both hemispheres of the brain. People in this group are willing to take risks and ask, “So what can they do to me?” Summing up Phase: This phase applies to those in their 60s, 70s and 80s. They want to review their lives and give back to family, friends and society. Increased volunteerism, philanthropy and writing one’s autobiography are manifestations of this phase. Encore Phase: Cohen notes that this phase is not a swan song but a “desire to go on in the face of adversity or loss.” He concludes that the need to remain vital can lead to new ways to become creative and connected. These phases suggest that we can gain new energy, direction and purpose as we age. And then there is the “senior moment.” Rather than viewing this as a “dumb me” moment,” Cohen defines it as “pragmatic creativity.” Here is the story he told at the conference to demonstrate the point: Cohen’s in-laws were at the National Museum in Washington, D.C., when it started to snow. When they left to return home, there were inches on the ground with no cabs in sight. They managed to walk safely to a nearby subway and exited in front of a Domino’s pizza place. They entered and ordered a pizza for delivery at their home address and added, “One more thing. When you deliver the pizza, could you take us with you?” That is a senior moment! We all have the inner push. It’s normal. Aging can be a time of possibilities – a good thought as we approach the new year. Helen Dennis is a specialist in aging, with academic, corporate and nonprofit experience. Send her your questions and concerns in care of the Daily Breeze, 5215 Torrance Blvd., Torrance, CA 90503-4077; or fax to 310-540-7581, or e-mail to [email protected] local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more