The Other I

January 10, 2022

Young Old I am not

Filed under: Just Stuff — theotheri @ 10:12 pm

When I was a young university professor teaching developmental psychology, an older colleague suggested we needed to include more teaching about development in old age and not put all our emphasis on just stages when we are growing up. I dismissed her suggestion. What, I thought, was more boring and uneventful than old age?

Was I wrong! I am now 82 years old, and whatever else it might be, uneventful and boring it is not.

One of the influential theorists in developmental psychology is Erik Erikson who was born in 1902 and published his first theories in the 1940’s. For him, the last stage of life was old age which generally began at about the age of 65. But since then, the average life span has increased substantially and many more of us are living even into their 100’s. Physically-speaking, old age in general is closer to 80 years of age.

Given my own experience, I think of “old age” as divided into at least two stages — what I call “Young-Old” and “Old-Old.” “Young-Old” begins with retirement, somewhere these days usually between about 55 and 65, the age when work or raising a family is coming to an end. We often begin this time jumping with excitement, with energy and skills to travel or engage in other activities that we didn’t have time for before.

With the age I am calling “Old-Old,” we do truly feeling ourselves losing energy and a deterioratiion of many of our skills, both mental and physical. For me it began with the death of my husband. It took me almost six months to regain a normal sleeping and eating schedule, I lost 10 pounds in weight, and began the extremely demanding and complex process of selling our 4 bedroom 3 bath property with extensive garden, and returning from England after almost 35 years to living in the United States.

That would be exhausting at any age. The difference is that I know I am never going to return to the energy levels I had just 2-3 years ago.

What, then, is my life about? What am I doing here?

I see myself as looking for a balance between Celebration and Denial.

Celebrating that life has been given to me with so many irreplaceable gifts of love, of success, of being honored in so many ways, celebrating the increasing beauty of the inexplicable mystery of life that surrounds me, reaching even into the outer reaches of space.

I also am trying to balance celebration with denial when it is appropriate. The temptation is to deny that I am getting old, getting mentally and physically less able, even to resent those who are trying to help me, perhaps by lifing something that is now too heavy for me, suggesting that I should no longer be driving, offering to do the cooking I’ve been doing all my life. But denial is also valid, because it is important to reject the ideas of others, of those who think I’m really just taking up space with no contribution to make to the world.

Finding that contribution has been fascinating and demanding, and what might be my story for the rest of this blog.

In my next post, I hope to start describing various events that have led to my most recent plan caveat which I call “Barring the Unexpected” – those unplanned for interruptions, big and small, that don’t just happen once is every great while, the way they used to inmy younger days. Now they happen, I’d say, about 5 times a week.

Looking forward to seeing you next week — barring the unexpected. 🙂


  1. Terry
    Good to hear from you again!
    I’m reading “The inner work of age” by Commie Zweig
    Sub titled “shifting from ROLE to SOUL
    So far so good
    Every good to you as you navigate your way.


    Comment by Beth — January 10, 2022 @ 11:42 pm | Reply

  2. I love when I see this email in my inbox….they are wonderful. Thank you.


    Comment by Andy Comeau — January 11, 2022 @ 12:46 am | Reply

    • Thank you too, Andy. Comments like yours are a big part of what keeps me posting.


      Comment by theotheri — January 11, 2022 @ 1:00 am | Reply

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