Gerotranscendence: A Developmental Theory of Positive Aging

Gerotranscendence: A Developmental Theory of Positive Aging

Gerotranscendence: A Developmental Theory of Positive Aging

Gerotranscendence: A Developmental Theory of Positive Aging

Synopsis

"Lars Tornstam's latest book explores the need for new theories in gerontology and sets the stage for the development of his theory of gerotranscendence. This theory was developed to address what the author sees as a perpetual mismatch between present theories in social gerontology and existing empirical data. The author supports his theory with qualitative in-depth interviews with older persons and quantitative studies. In addition, Tornstam illustrates the practical implications of the theory of gerotranscendence for professionals working with older adults in care settings. A useful Appendix contains suggestions of how to facilitate personal development toward gerotranscendence." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

Do you remember when you were ten years of age and what you, at that time, thought about those who were twenty years of age?

This question has been forwarded to several audiences as a first thread in the theory of gerotranscendence. The answers have recurrently been laughter and declarations that the twenty-year-old seemed very old indeed. Some of us admit that at age ten we wished to never grow older. Age ten was thought to be the very best in life. So, at age ten, the message was this: If everything could just continue unchanged as it is now, life would be at its very best. What lies ahead is nothing to look forward to.

And then we grew older and turned twenty. What did we, at age twenty, think about ourselves as ten, and what about the prospect of turning fifty? The answers to these questions were new laughter and statements about seeing oneself as very childish and immature at age ten and that becoming twenty was a pleasure rather than a nuisance. At the same time, the prospect of becoming fifty was very negative. Being twenty was felt to be the essence of life, while the thought of becoming fifty was gruesome and seen as the end of the fun. So, at age twenty, the message was now this: If everything could just continue unchanged as it is now, life would be at its very best. What lies ahead is nothing to look forward to.

Sure enough, those of us who have reached age fifty often praise the maturity of that time. Becoming fifty was a pleasure rather than a nuisance, and we pitied the poor twenty-year-olds, running around like hysteric mice in a maze. [Thank God for not having to suffer that age any longer.] But, for sure, being eighty would be a real nuisance and a misery, including retirement shock, loss of friends, and loneliness. So, at age fifty, the message was still: If everything could just continue unchanged as it is now, life would be at its very best. What lies ahead is nothing to look forward to.

So, it seems, many of us have a tendency to define the present time of life as the best one and as normative for how the rest of life should be. We can understand otherwise in retrospect, but have difficulty doing . . .

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