What is the purpose of old age and how do we wade through it “successfully”?
According to speakers at a symposium offered by the Jungian Society of Washington entitled “Jung and Aging: Bringing to Life the Possibilities and Potentials for Vibrant Aging”, the second half of life does offer opportunities for us to go inward and ask of ourselves:
“Who am I and what is my purpose in life?” and “What of value will I leave behind?”
Each of these we must answer for ourselves and the answers do vary from person to person.
This conference shifted the emphasis from the pathology of older age (disease, impairment and deterioration) to a whole-person view of older people and examining the role of purpose, engagement and belonging even in the face of the “pathologies”.
Morning speakers spoke of Carl Jung and his teachings and their reflections. I know I want to explore more of his teachings such as:
“The afternoon of life is just as full of meaning as the morning; only its meaning and purpose are different.” Carl Jung, Vol 7, Two Essays on Analytical Psychology, 74
“A human being would certainly not grow to be seventy or eighty years old if this longevity had no meaning for the species. The afternoon of human life must also have a significance of its own and cannot merely be a pitiful appendage to life’s morning” Carl Jung, CW, Vol 8, Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche, “The Stages of Life”, 387-403.
The afternoon, though, was action-based, with panelists in the fields of aging and geriatrics providing local metro-DC and national examples of how the view of whole-person aging is impacting our medical care now. Exciting leaders speaking yesterday were from the Univ of MD School of Social Work, National Center for Creative Aging, George Washington Institute for Spirituality and Health and the Medical House Call program at MedStar, Washington Hospital Center*. Each of these speakers have exciting innovative programs and each also made the client/patient part of the treatment team. What a concept to ask the patient for his/her treatment goals!
*And, here is a shameless plug for Seabury’s Leadership in Aging Awards in June: this year’s awardee’s are Stuart Rosenthal, Editor and Publisher of The Beacon newspapers AND the Medical House Call program at MedStar, Washington Hospital Center. Truly, these are leaders in the field of aging. Join us.
Key to successful aging to me are resilience, continual learning and exploring, strong relationships and community as well as the willingness to let go of whatever no longer serves me (the latter might include material goods as well as people in my life who drag me down.)
Ask me to talk more about what I learned at the symposium! And, I’d love to hear from YOU: What, to you, is successful aging?
Annie is Seabury’s Director of Congregational Resources working with congregations to help them organize programs and services by and with older adults. She can be reached at (202) 414-6314 or via email.