The Later Adulthood

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As people age, they grow fatigued, exhausted, and worn down in all aspects, including their physical, mental, psychological, and emotional setups, according to psychologist Erik Erickson (Weiland, 1993). As people get older, they stop participating in life activities and, in general, they stop being productive. At this time, everyone is focusing on their integrity, which is only restricted to those who reflect on their history and find it useful, resulting in inner satisfaction. Nonetheless, some people who reflect on their past and realize that they never lived up to their potential, their expectations, or the hopes of society experience sorrow and unhappiness. Losing morale, developing depression, and reduced hope for the rest of their lives is characteristic of this category, hence the integrity versus despair theory (Wink & Dillon, 2003). All these features mirror the late adulthood, which has been argued out of scholarly research to the beginning at the age of 65 years to death. In the interview conducted to examine the developmental stages common to persons in the late adulthood stage, the interviewee revealed a couple of common encounters in the developmental stage, however, other elements that do manifest in his life at the late adulthood stage were contrary to the scholarly arguments (Rathus, 2016). For the sake of privacy and confidentiality, his name will be concealed, and the letter J will be used to refer to him instead. Other than the physical, psychological, cognitive, and emotional characteristics of Mr. J, the theorists and their respective theories are outlined.

Physical Changes

Of all the human developmental stages, the late adulthood is the final stage of physical changes in the human body. Once people enter the late adulthood, their life expectancy is dependent on a myriad of variables including the medical care, social set ups, economic well-being, and religion. While interviewing Mr. J, at 73 years of age, he manifested with diminishing muscle strength, reduced skin elasticity, and his response time was longer than it could be for individuals in their middle adulthood or lower (Wink & Dillon, 2003). His eyes had developed average vision loss, although he did not present with cataracts as it would be for a majority of the old men of his age. While interacting with him, it was noted that his recognition of touch, noise, and the smell was relatively low, considering the environment the interview was held. Studies have shown that people in the late adulthood are often diagnosed with terminal illnesses like cancer, depression, cardiovascular maladies, and diabetes among others. Nevertheless, contrary to this, Mr. J said his health was sound, and that he had not been under a critical medical diagnosis for the last three decades. Nevertheless, Mr. J indicated that he was experiencing a loss of stability and loses balance occasionally to fall down while walking faster than usual or running errands in his local home.

Cognitive Changes

Researchers argue that a great percentage of the people (93 percent) in their late adulthood experience both neuronal and mortar slowdowns (Erickson, Gildengers, & Butters, 2013). Consequently, their cognitive response is hampered from performing as young and sharp minds could do in their twenties. The ability to deliver efficiently and without much struggle is no longer possible, and the cognitive tasks become more cumbersome to the elderly, as is the case with Mr. J. nevertheless, unlike a lesser percentage (15 percent) of the people in the late adulthood that present with Alzheimer`s disease and hence senile dementia, the interviewee declined any diagnosis of the disease and he never presented with even the slightest characteristic symptoms. Alzheimer`s disease normally causes memory loss and one eventually cannot afford to take café of themselves.

Social Changes

The philosophers Henry and Cumming formulated the disengagement theory in the year 1961. The primary argument was that when people reach late adulthood, they tend to separate from the community, and the society as well prepares to cut social ties with them (Rathus, 2016). This stage is a landmark in the preparation for peace and death of the elderly. Indeed, Mr. J agrees that since he was 60 years of age, he withdrew from the social life, and only interacts with his family members and close friends of his age to date. He concentrates primarily on his life and perpetually thinks of the inevitable end of his life on earth. Unlike the general assumption that family members let go the responsibilities and the expectation for the seniors, Mr. J accounts that even at his elderly age, his family members still expect him to play the roles of a father and a grandfather in his home (Erickson et al., 2013). He says happily that he is capable of and willing to perform all the duties expected of him till it gets not possible anymore. He insists that he still has an interest in life and that he is making mega investments in his rural home, projects which have given him hope and enthusiasm as a village and church elder. Mr. J seems to be in tandem with the Activity Theory, which argues that morbidity and mortality rates of the elderly reduce when they become involved in personal lives that touch on their family members. Mr. J was a veterinary doctor, and since his retirement he finds life fulfilling out of leisure and happiness.

Emotional Changes

The psychological theory by Erickson is the best explanation of the emotional state of Mr. J. the hypothesis postulates that despair comes when the aged do not find the achievements they have made in life, while integrity and a lifted ego follows satisfaction and achievements in life. Mr. J agrees that he is satisfied with his life (Rathus, 2016). A keen examination of his emotions reflects his mind of a joyous and enthusiastic character that worries less in life. Contrary to the late adulthood stage, the interviewee does not agree that he thinks about death most of the time, and he does not agree that an inevitable end is approaching to mark the end of his being alive. Nevertheless, he asserts that his wisdom and insight will let go when time comes. The theorist named Peck analyses ego among the elderly. He says that there is an evident transcendence between ego and responsibility and ego preoccupation versus physical changes. All these elements lead to changes in emotions of people in the late adulthood developmental stage (Weiland, 1993). On the other hand, Butler hypothesizes that the elderly develop psychological problems and emotional distress when they think of death. Furthermore, the ones who find out that they have made no achievements and they still face responsibilities become depressed and developed emotional imbalances. As opposed to this Mr. J is satisfied and happy for what he is, as he feels he has achieved enough and his life has been worth it (Rathus, 2016). Therefore, the developmental characteristics of Mr. J mirror the philosophical, scholarly, and psychological evidence about the late adulthood stage, nevertheless, the interview reveals contrary physical, emotional, cognitive, and social manifestation of his personality.


Erickson, K. I., Gildengers, A. G., & Butters, M. A. (2013). Physical activity and brain plasticity in late adulthood. Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, 15(1), 99–108.

Rathus, S. (2016). HDEV (9781305257580): Spencer A. Rathus: Books. United States: Cengage Learning.

Weiland, S. (1993). Erik Erickson: Ages, stages, and stories. Generations, 17(2).

Wink, P., & Dillon, M. (2003). Religiousness, spirituality, and psychosocial functioning in late adulthood: findings from a longitudinal study. Psychology and Aging, 18(4), 916–24.

April 26, 2023

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