Recently I received an unexpected call from an elementary school friend who is just one day older than I am. The purpose of the call was to inform me of the sudden death and funeral  of a mutual friend.
She said that this was the fifth funeral she was attending in five months, four via Zoom, and this last one was in person as she was a very good friend  of the deceased and his family.
After expressing my sympathy, I was curious to know how she was doing. I got an earful of the aches and pains she was experiencing in her old age.

I could not allow her to outdo me with the aches and pains story and assured her that she was not unique in this respect.  But what was almost comical was, as I talked about my doctors and my illnesses, she suddenly said, let us change the subject, how are your children?
It was there and then I recognized that as older people we may bore one another with our aches and pains complaints.
Let’s face it, as we approach this old age period, which is longer than it has ever been, living to the grand old age of 95, or 100, is no longer a great surprise.
As a child one looks forward to becoming an adolescent, then a young adult, then a middle-aged adult, then an old adult, and finally an old, old adult.
The number of old, old adults is growing every day. One will notice that the counting of the years of life from childhood to old age shows how many years I have to live.

When one gets to the age of 80 or less the count is in reverse, how many years more. one has. It goes like this, 10, 9, 8,………… How many years before the end of one’s journey.
Old age should be a time of pleasure and tranquility, when children are grown, life’s work is nearly done and responsibilities  are reduced…On the other hand, it brings concerns about declining physical functions, unwelcome loneliness, and of course the growing specter of imminent death.
In reconciling  these opposing forces, some older people are discontented, but many traverse this period with poise and a calm composure. Mostly they attach  a deeper significance to life, family, friendship bonds, leisure activities and community and church involvement. The church is filled with older folks.
Most older adults are quick to acknowledge that they are mortals and that death is certain. We often see it written that one out of five people will have a heart problem, that three out of every five will get cancer, but one out of one, or three out of three , or a hundred out of a hundred will die. There is no guessing who will die, we all will…
The RUBAIYAT OF OMAR KHAYYAM says it this way. “ And if the Wine you drink, the Lips you press, End in the Nothing all Things end in —Yes—Then fancy while Thou art, Thou art but what Thou shalt be–Nothing—Thou shalt not be less.” (could not resist this verse made famous during my drinking days.)

One of the very famous and popular psychologists one would study is Erik Erikson, who claimed that every period in our development is marked by a psychological conflict.
In older adulthood the conflict is Ego Integrity vs. Despair. It involves coming to terms with one’s life.  Those who arrive at a sense of Integrity feel at ease and satisfied with their achievements with little or no regret over their failures.
Successes and failures are part of life and should be accepted as normal. Whatever happened, whatever did not happen, whatever failed or turned out poorly, all happened in order  to make one exactly what he/she is.
“No cry over spilt milk”. My successes nor my failures did not independently determine what I am or who I am. Both made me who I am.
One predictor of Ego Integrity is midlife generativity which is helping to equip the younger generation to become useful citizens.  By doing this one’s life will not end at death, it will continue in the lives that you would have somehow touched.
Ego Integrity, the helping of others to grow, will most definitely contribute to a more favourable psychological well-being. To use Erikson’s words, “With Integrity death loses its sting.”
Hence it will not be feared, and above all we will prepare for it. Here intrinsic satisfaction of one’s life, that one has fulfilled his/her contribution to this world in return for life and living, will make the end easy and peaceful.
However, those who emphasized attainment of extrinsic goals such as money, power and prestige will more often fear life’s end.

The negative outcome of this old age stage, ‘ Despair’ occurs when aging adults feel they have made many wrong decisions and time left is too short to start the route to Integrity. Without another chance  the despairing person finds it hard to accept that death is near and is overcome with bitterness, defeat and hopelessness. These attitudes are often  expressed as anger and contempt  for others, which is really a disguise for one’s own contempt for the self. To be argumentative, fault finding, blaming others for his/her personal failure and regretful view of his/her own life, reflect a deep sense of Despair.
While Erikson’s description may fit some older people, it is not a condemnation of anyone. It takes all kinds to make  this world an exciting place.