Script: The Basics of Psychology for Christian Ministry
Homework Assignments

1.3.8 Late adulthood (late 60s and up): INTEGRITY OR DESPAIR

Older adults, at some point, face the challenge to let go of their involvement in the activities and engagements that have shaped their earlier years. Sooner or later, there is a noticeable decline in physical stamina or increasing health problems. Seeing one’s body age and change in appearance involves another difficult identity shift. Many older adults seek to deny this or perhaps even, somehow, stop this process through cosmetics, expensive dietary supplements, or plastic surgery. 

Finally, there is the existential challenge of facing one’s own finality. When older people move through their 80s and perhaps into their 90’s, there is an unending succession of losses as friends, acquaintances, and siblings pass away. This also leads to the gradual fading out of social activities.

Erikson sees this period as defined by an intriguing task. Finding a sense of integrity suggests a shift in focus away from seeking to define oneself through activities to becoming truly grounded in who one has become, letting go of doing in order to embrace being present to the moment. It involves reflecting on one’s life, revisiting past challenges, and connecting loose ends, perhaps a little bit like J. R. R. Tolkien’s character Bilbo Baggins writing his Hobbit’s tale “There and Back Again.”