I think Daniel Klein is right about how reflection and friendships are the bounties of old age. There were several points that he made that made me remember Erik Erikson’s eight stages of development.
Because medicine is helping us to live longer many see old age as a new adventure. I have to say I am one of those. I exercise almost every day, play a lot of golf, and read constantly. I try to keep myself fit and mentally active. I owe this to myself, family, and my students. Klein poignantly identifies my drive, “We are advised that an extended life span has given us an unprecedented opportunity. And if we surrender to old age, we are fools or, worse, cowards.”
On the other hand being old has earned certain rewards. Klein uses a quote from Epicurus to prove this point. “It is not the young man who should be considered fortunate but the old man ho has lived well, because the young man in his prime wanders much by chance, vacillating in his beliefs, while the old man has docked in the harbor, having safeguarded his true happiness.”
This juxtaposition is what made me think of Erikson. According to Erikson I am still in middle adulthood. He classifies 40 to 65 as middle adulthood, where this person seeks balance between generativity and stagnation. In other words, a person of this age is looking at creating, or at least supporting, some sort of legacy. “Success leads to feelings of usefuless and accomplishment, while failure results in shallow involvement in the world.”
Erikson’s last stage is entitled Maturity. This is from the age of 65 until death. This is where the senior citizen looks back at their life and either sees a sense of fulfillment, leading to feelings of wisdom, or failure, leading to regret, bitterness, and despair.
What is my point? I am not thinking about retirement any time soon, but I am thinking about what I intend to do when that time comes. I still want to contribute to my world, but when the time comes I want to be willing to take my Bible, and my philosophy books, and go to a Starbucks, or as in the case of Klein, a Taverna, and just sit back and think. There will be a time when I will want to slow down and think and even write more. Hmm, like Klein says, maybe the new old age is no way to live.
And that is my thought for the day!