Jeanne Denney
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Later Life

If young life forms the physical and the personal (or egoic), later life from 65 yo 85 at its best forms the transpersonal and presides over the dissolution of our ego. We are usually deeply invested in achieving an old age, which doesn’t mean we always know what to do with it if we get it. In later life we are challenged to claim, celebrate and invest our wisdom. We support growing others with this new force. Though in later life we are no longer the soil for the young, we do bring deep and much needed nutrients to the soil something like organic fertilizer or compost. Without this support from elders, it is as if nutrients are drained from those parenting or in midlife if we do not invest ourselves in them.

In this stage of life our work is to understand ourselves even more deeply as transpersonal beings and help those younger walk courageously toward their own life, evolution, preparing ultimately for their own time of dissolution. At the same time there is a kind of youth that continues to break out in later life at its best. While wisdom is gained, there is also resonance and fascination with adolescence. Memories of this part of life are revisited and relived in different ways. Our first dates, the music of youth, our young life revisits, perhaps stimulated by grandchildren in adolescence.

The elders are keepers of stories in families and communities, the gaurdians of history. As we revisit youth, it is possible to be gaurdians and advisers of youth if we have achieved our own wisdom and worked on the lessons of our life. Venues which encourage this pairing of energies allow all generations to flourish.

Old Age

As we age further, we are likely to regress even further into our youth in both memories and behavior. Dependency on others on physical levels increases as capacities for activities diminish slowly. Yet engagement with other generations, inclusion in family life, being invited to make a contribution to the family life can be very important. Elders make important gifts to people of other life stages that are sadly often not collected and valued in modern cultures. Isolation and loneliness is sadly common for elders in the United States.

In very old age when needs for care increase further, there can be a further regression into early childhood. We may experience a loss of memory or cognative function as our mind goes further into other realities or into history. We may finally become bedbound. Many deeply fear this stage of dependency on others, and the burden they feel it will bring. However looked at another way, elders even non-communicative ones, on their deathbeds bring many gifts to others. It is unusual to look at it this way. Yet if we are present and look closely we can discern opportunities for growth. Sitting with an elder in this stage of life allows us to come into contact with larger spiritual realities and remember the non-essential nature of our ego life. These are very potent meditations.

 

Dying and Death

Death clearly happens at any age. If you look at the table below you can see that 98% of us in the United States make it past 25 years of age. A good 92% of us will make it past age 45. Over 56% of us will make it past 75. About 1 in 3 of us will die over age 85.

Though we can die of many things and at any age, if we look at the expressin of the life force itself, we can see that it has a firm and predictable trajectory. It transforms, and as it does, the body slowly declines becoming more vulnerable to the vectors of disease, accident, etc. What we speak of here is an ideal of some kind of natural death free of disease or tragedy.

If we have managed to live until midlife, we will most likely die because of a disease of some kind (cancer and heart disease are the most common diseases) or perhaps because frailty leaves us vulnerable to colds, flus, falls and pneumonia.


Survival Chart


Seeing all of this movement of the life force as natural and logical, working with the requirements and gifts of every age can make walking the path of life much more meaningful and tolerable.