Late Adulthood: Death and Dying
Late adulthood (old age) is generally considered to begin at about age 65. Erik Erikson, a famous psychoanalyst, suggests that at this time it is important to find meaning and satisfaction in life rather than to become bitter and disillusioned, that is to resolve the conflict of integrity vs. despair. Integrity occurs when the individual can look back on the events of earlier life with pleasure about what has taken place and the people one has helped to develop, and a sense of having lived a complete life (Carducci 193). Despair occurs when the elderly individual looks back on his or her life with a sense of incompleteness about what has not been done or will never be done and realizes that his or her time on earth is running out (Carducci 193). In late adulthood, attitudes about death shift: anxiety decreases, hope rises. According to the text, “this shift in attitudes is beneficial…many developmentalists believe that one sign of mental health among older adults is acceptance of mortality, increasing altruistic concern about those who will live after them” (Berger 580). There are three proposed explanations for the relatively low level of fear of death among older adults: “(1) they may accept death more easily than others because they have been able to live long, full lives; (2) they may have come to accept their own deaths as a result of a socialization process through which they repeatedly experience the death of others; and (3) they may have come to view their lives as having less value than the lives of younger persons and thus may not object so strenuously to giving them up (Corr, Nabe, and Corr 437). Berger mentions that as “evidence of the change in attitude, older people write their wills, designate health care proxies, read scriptures, reconcile with estranged family members, and in general, tie up all the loose ends that most young adults avoid” (Berger 580). Acceptance of death does not mean that the elderly give up...
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