I recently read actor Bill Pullman’s comment about his new movie, “The Ballad of Lefty Brown”: that it was his “coming-of-age-at-63” role. Meaning, I think, that not only does he play an older character, but that he is doing so at age 63.
Kind of fun, that phrase, and it put me in mind of what’s been written lately about the current (vs. traditional) aging process: that there are different stages, tasks, and opportunities within it.
One of the authors who considers this is Michael Gurian. In his book, “The Wonder of Aging,” he suggest three developmental aging stages:
--the Age of Transformation: approximately 50 to approximately 65;
--the Age of Distinction: approximately 65 to the late 70’s;
--the Age of Completion, approximately 80 – 100 and beyond.
I quite like Gurian’s use of the word “approximately,” as we know that no one person ages the same as another. In fact, though age-wise I’m tucked comfortably in the Age of Distinction, I may not quite reach it by my late 70’s. Some of us—as my father remarked when I completed my master’s degree at 45—are clearly late bloomers.
Which means I could be transforming, distincting, and completing all at the same time, assuming I live as long as my father did, until age 95.
What I mostly wonder about the wonders of aging is whether we should use “coming of age” to describe it. After all, that term typically refers to our moving from our teen-age years into adulthood, when, as the Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines it, we attain “prominence, respectability, recognition, or maturity.”
But then isn’t it true that each developmental stage in our too brief lives has its own “coming of age” markers? Childhood, adolescence, adulthood? And so why not old age? Or what psychologist Erik Erickson called Late Adulthood, his 8th stage of development?
So it would seem that we agers need to figure out how to move into and through our Late Adulthood. And decide what we want to attain while there. Each of Gurian's three-part aging process offers its own distinct tasks and opportunities, which might give us some useful ideas.
To learn what those elements are, you can read Gurian’s book, "The Wonder of Aging." Click here to see more info about it: