“In life it isn’t what you’ve lost; it’s what you’ve got left that counts.” — Hubert H. Humphrey
Each day we are getting older. We must accept this life fact and develop an aging plan for our older adult years.
In “The Life Cycle Completed,” Erik H. Erickson wrote that during stages of life each of us must deal with personality issues. In our infancy we deal with Trust vs. Mistrust; our teen years, Identity vs. Identity Confusion; our young adulthood, Intimacy vs. Isolation. If we have dwelt with these issues properly we have grown and developed a healthy personality.
Erickson says as we enter older adulthood we begin to suffer in three areas. Our physical organs and muscles weaken. Mentally we struggle as we suffer gradual loss in our memory and thinking powers. Spiritually we enter a reevaluation time of our faith. We may leave our faith, continue in it or greatly grow spiritually as we age. Erickson calls our dealing with older adulthood crisis as “Integrity verses Despair.”
According to Erickson, integrity is “the acceptance of one’s own life as something that had to be lived and could not be lived by another.” It is an attitude that our life has been a uniquely positive contribution to all humanity but especially to our family and people we have touched throughout life. Integrity can be summed up in the phrase: “I Did Good!”
Despair grows out of one’s fear of death. It is the feeling of regret that our life has been too short to accomplish any good. What time we have left is too short to attempt “do overs” to correct personal perceived mistakes. Whereas integrity gives one a sense of wholeness, despair gives one a sense of fragmentation and disjointed pieces.
Erickson says as a person succeeds in personal integrity quite often wisdom is a valid word to describe this older adult’s life, teaching and faith.
Paul, the wise older adult, conveys his integrity: “For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness which the Lord the righteous Judge, will award me on that day — and not only for me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:6-8)
Frank Fain is director of educational services at The Baptist Home in Arcadia Valley, Mo.