The Golden Years – what does that mean for us? The Macmillan dictionary defines a golden oldie as something that is old but still popular – something that we would all like to believe we still are, as we advance in years! The word ‘golden’ conjures up images of happy memories, achievements, families, friendship and laughter, but not all ‘oldies’ reflect back over the years and view them in such a positive manner.
Friedman (Coon & Mitterer, 2012) describes a theory developed by Erik Erikson which postulates that there is a psychosocial dilemma or ‘crisis’ that occurs at each stage of our lives. He outlined 8 main stages that we progress through and the resolution or lack of resolution at each of these stages determines our view on life. The stages that are relevant for the Golden Oldies are Middle Adulthood (Generativity versus Stagnation) and Late Adulthood (Integrity versus Despair). Generativity is closely related to an interest in guiding the next generation, through an interest in the welfare of others and society as a whole. Failure to find resolution within this stage may lead to stagnation, which translates into a rigid concern with one’s own well- being, needs and comforts. Typically, if this occurs, life begins to lose meaning which results in feelings of bitterness and being trapped (Coon & Mitterer, 2012). Integrity may be regarded as an aspect of self- respect. Integrity occurs when there is a reflection on a life as well lived, satisfying and rich. This creates an ability to face aging and death with dignity. Despair on the other hand, is a result of a deep sense of failure and missed opportunities in life and in this case death becomes a source of fear and depression (Coon & Mitterer, 2012).