Needs to Know: Seniority

Needs to Know: Seniority

In the developmental model presented here, the Senior Citizen phase begins in the mid 80’s and extends on to the end of life. There is almost no research on which to base information about this stage of life. Unlike research and information about the developmental stages and needs of childhood and adolescence which is voluminous, the senior citizen enters unknown territory. However, there is good reason to speculate that transcendence is a developmental need at this stage. Transcendence is a purely spiritual need. It is the drawing of consciousness away from the objective world, beyond the boundaries of what is known and understood. It is not avoidance or a withdrawal in the negative sense. Rather, it is moving towards a whole new realm of consciousness; a realm in which all the developmental needs of the mind and the body are of no interest.

Transcendence will only become an emerging need if the previous needs have been satisfied. That means the needs and tasks of the elder adult must have been completed. For that to have happened, the needs and tasks of the middle adult must have been completed and satisfied. For that to happen, all the needs and tasks of the early adult must have been satisfied. And so on all the way back through infancy. In a great majority of the population, needs and tasks from any one stage carry over to the next. The middle adult crisis is a way whereby some of these backlogged needs are acknowledged and satisfied. Still, most elder adults continue to be impacted by the forces and drives of earlier stages such as the needs of industriousness, competency, identity and intimacy. Consequently, it is rare to find an elder adult who can integrate their experiences without some regrets and some despair. It is even rarer to find an elder adult beginning to feel the stirrings of a need for transcendence and understand that need in the positive light of spiritual development.

There is little the senior citizen need do. Transcendence is a conscious, willing relinquishment of all that is known. Perhaps the best advice is simply “let go.” Although the body may continue to function and the mind may continue to perceive, both are deteriorating. Consciousness can now “relax” into itself freed from its attachment to the conceptualizations and images of the mind and the corporeal drives of the body. There are no longer psycho–emotional needs or bio–physical forces demanding attention. There is only the utter simplicity and nakedness of being. There can be an overwhelming sense of fulfillment – and freedom.


 

Needs to Know: Elder Adulthood

Needs to Know: Elder Adulthood

The developmental needs of the elder adult make up relatively new territory. It wasn’t that long ago that the average life expectancy was about 40 years. The elder adult begins this stage of life at about 60 years and extends into the early 80’s. Some individuals remain very active and vibrant well into their 90’s. As the average life expectancy extends even beyond the century mark, developmental needs and tasks will likely be reinterpreted.

During this phase of life, the children have grown, moved out and have started a family of their own. The career is winding down. It is a culminating period. The end of life is near. The issues of closure and completion begin to become predominant. Unfinished tasks and unsaid words may become important. The major task at this stage of life is to actualize the self, to integrate the wide range of experience gained over the many decades; to assimilate and synthesize all that has been learned. This amalgamation of experience yields a wisdom which can be handed over to younger generations.

Unfortunately, our modern culture is extremely youth oriented. The wisdom and knowledge of the self actualized elder adult is often ignored or neglected by the younger generation in favor of the newest trend or the latest fad. An elder adult may experience loneliness, uselessness and despair. Some of the activities which can help the elder adult meet the challenges and needs of this stage include:

  • Volunteer in the community in ways which allow working with younger generations
  • Enjoy quiet time to reflect upon the life that has been lived, the stages that have been passed through, the connections between them and ways in which the complexities of a life lived have woven a pattern which now at this stage can be discerned and appreciated.
  • Enjoy social time with friends and family; grandchildren and great grandchildren can bring particular joy and contentment
  • Be physically active as much as possible without strain;
  • Enjoy the leisure time which comes with retirement in whichever way brings the most happiness.
  • If handicapped, bed-ridden or in some way incapacitated, allow others to do for you – be open to receiving the care of others. Remember that they too have developmental needs and caring for others may be a large part of their task – just as it was for you at that stage.

Failure to make the time to integrate the experiences of a lifetime can result in an unfinished life, regrets, a negative attitude and a denial of the reality that has occurred yielding a sense of disgust with one’s life. This can all be countered with introspection, self analysis and meditation. These activities can become an important part of the elder adult’s life and if developed can give tremendous support to the next phase of development.

Needs to Know: Seniority


 

Needs to Know: Middle Adulthood

Needs to Know: Middle Adulthood

Occupying the periods between mid 30’s and mid 60’s, the middle adult years is where the famed “mid life crisis” often occurs. The unmet needs of childhood and adolescence finally rear their head and demand satisfaction. The mid life crisis is often referred to as “the second adolescence.” It is a period of reclaiming lost or undeveloped identity. It can be a radical period of transformation causing a great deal of upheaval in an established family. Separation, divorce, remarriage and blended families are not uncommon in this stage. Career change is likely. In today’s world more and more woman are now experiencing the freedom to question their needs and choices; they are having their own mid life crisis, adjusting their role in the family and embarking on careers of their own.

The traditional middle adult is generally established in his or her career. Choices as to “what do I want to be when I grow up” are no longer entertained. Work energy now is channeled towards productivity and longevity. The middle adult may be engaged in various community activities, service organizations or as a board member for social agencies.

The primary developmental need of middle adulthood is geared towards the family and the community. The father is the provider and the mother is the homemaker. Each has their own defined rules and roles. In today’s world, these roles have shifted and become somewhat blurred with dual family incomes and blended families. Some keywords that characterize this stage would be “caring,” “giving,” “helping,” and “community.” Personal needs are beginning to shift away from one’s own psychological development and towards the welfare of others. This is a shift towards the satisfaction of social/spiritual needs.

To help meet the needs of middle adulthood a person can:

  • Recognize the shift in emphasis towards giving back, caring for others, productivity and the growing need to acknowledge the spiritual part of your being.
  • If you find yourself in a midlife identity crisis, you can greatly benefit by seeing a professional counselor to help clarify the issues and provide objective feedback. No counselor worth his or her credentials will tell you what to do. A successful passage through a midlife crisis is dependent on difficult, personal, individual decisions.
  • If your identity is relatively intact, accept who you have become and the limitations of that self. At this stage of life, options are less but momentum is greater. Utilize the training, education and experience accumulated to move you forward.
  • Contribute to your family and your community, these are the major needs during this developmental stage. But, be careful not to overextend yourself in an attempt to compensate for shortcomings.

Adults in this phase of the journey who fail to meet the developmental needs of this stage could easily find themselves burned out, stagnating, self-absorbed and cynical.

The long haul through middle adulthood yields the golden years which can prove to be extremely rewarding.

Needs to Know: Elder Adulthood


 

Needs to Know: The Young Adult

Needs to Know: The Young Adult

Having passed through adolescence, not without bumps, dents, scars and complexes, all of which are part and parcel of the individual’s identity, the person now emerges into young adulthood. With the challenges and crisis that have paved the path during the last two decades, it should not be surprising that many of the needs the young adult strives to satisfy are colored by unmet needs of adolescence and childhood. Identity may not be secured; questions about competency and industriousness may intrude; there may be issues about initiative and autonomy. Despite this, the young adult finds new more pressing needs emerging such as career development, partnership and genuine intimacy. Young adulthood spans the period from about 22 years of age into the mid 30’s.

Although parents are likely still very much in the picture, they no longer hold the tremendous power and control they have in the past. Now, the main influence comes from work colleagues and, particularly potent in this stage, the marital partner. However, as a young adult, it is now up to the individual to discover how best to meet his or her emerging needs.

Some pointers for this stage include:

  • Don’t neglect the earlier needs that may still be striving for satisfaction.
  • Learn good communication skills and use them with parents, friends, colleagues and significant others.
  • Read some books about what it means to be intimate. Question the models you have internalized growing up.
  • This is not only a period of giving love and affection but also of receiving love and affection. Explore your feelings and be honest with yourself.
  • Build affiliations both professional and social.
  • Seek a balance between work and pleasure – social/professional activities and persona/private intimacy
  • Examine your goals, your vision, your weaknesses and your strengths. Are you heading in the right direction?

Social and cultural forces often dictate how a person passes through any given development stage. Our western culture trends to be relatively rigid and our post industrial era often place an undue emphasis on achievement at a young age. For those who have the opportunity to experience a developmental hiatus, a break in the normal process, the initial period of early adulthood is the perfect time. The ages of about 22 – 26 is an ideal period to postpone career development, intimacy and starting a family in favor of travel to foreign places (even if it’s just out of state), meeting new people, having new experiences, breaking out of the mold, expanding and growing. The military or humanitarian endeavors such as the Peace Corps can provide such opportunities as can simply hopping on a bus and heading out for some unplanned adventures.

If a person is not able to meet the needs of this stage, isolation tends to replace intimacy. Promiscuity and demanding exclusivity are behavioral symptoms of an isolated individual incapable of genuine affection and the forming of intimate bonds.

It wasn’t so long ago that the average life span was much shorter than it is today. Back then, early adulthood was considered what today would be mid adulthood. Life expectancy wasn’t much past 40. Now, mid adulthood is the half way point with several developmental needs awaiting to emerge and be satisfied.

Needs to Know: Middle Adulthood


 

Needs to Know: Adolescence

Needs to Know: Adolescence

The stage of adolescence, between the ages of about 13 and 21, is perhaps the most difficult, challenging, confusing and dangerous. The adolescent is not only struggling with typical teenage challenges of identity but may also be wrestling with past needs which have not been fully satisfied, such as initiative, competence or even autonomy – developmental needs and “chores” from previous stages of development.

The primary task, the overriding need of the adolescent during the next decade, is the development of an individual identity. This is no small feat and actually may continue well into adulthood. Peers and peer groups are now far more important than parents or teachers. Ironically, the adolescent seeks an individual identity by striving for peer and peer group approval and affiliation. Belonging to a group or a set of like minded individuals is important. Sex and sexual relationships also become important. Adolescence is the time when most of us first experienced kissing, fondling and intercourse. Going steady and breaking up add to the mix of emotional turmoil so common in adolescence. Self absorption is common as is defiance of parents. The pressures that bear down on an adolescent can be significant and the task of defining an identity is not met without struggle.

Parents can help their adolescents meet the demands of their developmental needs by:

  • Recognize that this stage of development requires the adolescent to make his or her own decisions. This is part of becoming an independent individual with a unique identity. Try to provide increasing opportunities for the adolescent to be on their own, responsible for their own actions. Make use of natural consequences for violations and natural rewards for compliance
  • Honor the peer pressure that often regulates adolescent behavior. Again, let the adolescent make decisions and reap the consequences, positive or negative. This may be the most important point in helping the adolescent reach responsible adulthood. Although it may be a school of hard knocks, there is nothing like real experience to teach the way of the world.
  • Make sure the household rules are established and firm. Also make sure the adolescent understands his or her limitations re: various freedoms such as bed time, weeknight and weekend curfew, homework, minimum grades, friends, activities, etc…Natural consequences can be set up for each. The adolescent needs to learn that his or her actions (or lack of actions) result in set pre-established consequences. Consequences can also be positive as in rewards for appropriate behavior. These parameters will change as the adolescent grows from early adolescence into late adolescence.
  • Keep an eye open for signs of depression, anxiety, substance abuse or other behaviors which might indicate problems with meeting the demands of this development stage. If such signs are noted, be supportive and offer assistance and community resources but do not demand. Adolescents are notorious for self sabotage as a means of being independent and individualized. For some, a bad identity is better than no identity or a “used” identity. In our society, which has few ceremonial rites of passage, delinquent behavior often becomes that rite of passage. Being the “bad boy” or “loose girl” can become a badge of individuation and a way to gain identity.
  • Try not to react emotionally to the adolescent’s behaviors. Simple, reasonable and rational responses based on enforceable natural consequences won’t escalate already tense situations.
  • Be available for open, honest, heart-to-heart talks, but do not demand or require it. Adolescents are self centered and don’t necessarily care about how their parents are feeling. They can be very reluctant to self – disclose personal information. But, when the opportunity arises, such open, honest discussions can be quite rewarding.
  • Maintain some kind of family activity such as camping, sports, playing board games, going out to dinner/movies etc…something which the adolescent can choose to join in on but may often refuse. This refusing family activity is part of his or her breaking away which is necessary and important.
  • Help the adolescent move into later adolescence and adulthood by letting go of the past. Do not treat an adolescent as a child. Do not treat a 16 year old the same as a 13 year old. Treat the 18 year old as an adult. Teenagers value being treated as responsible individuals and generally they will live up to that expectation.,
  • As a parent, seek guidance and assistance, read books, take classes. Communication and behavior management are topics which are interesting in and of themselves and also relevant to raising an adolescent. The saying “it takes a village to raise a child” applies most appropriately to the adolescent and specifically to the needs of the adult/parent/caregiver in accessing the resources of the community to help ensure the adolescent is meeting the developmental challenges appropriately. This is especially true in our modern culture with an excessive amount of choices and diversions.

If an adolescent does not meet the development needs of acquiring a sense of identity, role confusion can give rise to fanaticism or repudiation. The fanatic zealously promotes rigid idealogic positions – kind of an over exaggerated identity. Such a person may join a cult or a gang. Repudiation is a rejection of society and its norms and such a position may give rise to criminal behavior or isolationism.

If all has gone reasonably well, the infant has grown up, reached adulthood and has become a responsible citizen in the larger world. But, that does not mean developmental needs have stopped. Higher needs will now beckon. Marriage, family, work, social contribution all becomes as important to the adult as initiative was to the toddler.

Needs to Know: The Young Adult