Also as indicated by the examples, life cycle-based data placed in each cell reflected both positive and negative tendencies of each theme, and the importance of each identified thematic strength as a conceptual indicator of successful thematic development e. Across individual charts, columns differed in density of data, in relative balance between positive and negative items, and of course in specific thematic content. Not surprisingly, major personal life events e. But what did these individual charts and their person-level insights tell us about our initial questions?
What kind of sense did integrity versus despair make as a focus for a stage of life that was now lasting so very long and varying so greatly, across even our 29 participants? Across charts, we saw commonalities in life events, experiences, and concerns associated with each theme column in different life periods chart rows. These issues differed from those that had catalyzed their earlier-life work around generativity and stagnation, for example, keeping children well fed, clothed, and housed; building a business or a professional field. We began to concentrate on lifelong commonalities we saw underlying work on each psychosocial theme e.
This thinking that eventually became the principle we called Life in Time prompted two additional insights. Depending on life circumstances, what had once functioned as a weakness or obstacle could serve, at a later time, as a valuable life strength—and vice versa. Second, for our participants the real-life process of balancing old age integrity with despair was not primarily one of rumination and reflection.
We considered these three principles as our major finding: Although they did not directly answer our initial research questions and this qualitative, subjective, small sample approach to science clearly limits generalizability and replicability, the principles provided, all together, a scaffolding for addressing these questions and a multitude of others in research and practice fields as disparate as gerontology, life-course development, family science and therapy, person-centered care, civic engagement, arts-based programming, and more.
Considered together, they appeared to constitute a structure for our understanding of how our participants lived and aged. After presenting the principles, the book illustrates them in terms of: In the article sections that follow, we discuss the principles in detail, including: This balance recognizes the importance of the ongoing presence of the dystonic, as part of a robust dynamic balance between the two tendencies. In this first theme, consider that new parents do not want their infant to be blindly trusting of any adult who approaches and wags a finger in her face, or pinches her cheek.
Rather, they want her to develop a reliable sense of basic trust in the dependability and predictability of the world, alongside a reliable sense of whom and what she is wise to mistrust.
Vital involvement in old age
Both syntonic and dystonic dispositions must, each in appropriate dynamic balance with the other, exist for all eight psychosocial themes, in all eight stages. Circumstances for any one person change over time, in ways both great and small. What is experienced as a healthy balance between dystonic and syntonic for each psychosocial theme, will change as environments and age-based expectations change. For example, consider the expectable later-life event of the death of a long-time partner.
This loss requires an elder to review, reconstitute, and move on from a lifelong sense of love, consolidated over many decades of loving balance between intimacy and isolation. Or perhaps the loss permits her to love a new partner quite differently from the way she had loved the one she married five decades earlier. Social changes in cultural attitude and policy influence the appropriateness of specific thematic balances.
Erikson expanded his earliest consideration of the dynamics of psychosocial suffering from the pain he saw in individual psychotherapy patients to that of populations uprooted by political and military violence Erikson, , as he reflected on the plight of emigrants, refugees, and persecuted minorities around the world. Around such suffering, he posed a tension between personal experiences of passivity in response to insurmountable hostile forces, and contrary experiences of activity or agency, as permitted by more hospitable environments. Noting commonalities across adaptations to different kinds of psychosocial conflict, his thinking shed increasing light on the multiple stresses that constitute everyday life in increasingly complex societies, in an increasingly global world.
Vital involvement requires a self, an outside environment, and a powerful and reciprocal enough interaction that the influence can be truly mutual.
Vital involvement explicitly emphasizes the importance of meaningful interaction with the environment as essential to healthy psychosocial development. The principle of Vital Involvement goes much further than healing. That is, ordinary psychosocial development, the process through which a person becomes who she is, takes place as part of vital involvement.
The vital involvement construct contextualizes vital engagement more broadly in healthy, lifelong psychosocial development. This expanded context could guide gerontologists to look more broadly for exemplars of multiple expressions of health in the face of adversity, as bases for new interventions.
Further, we suggest that in these terms, the vital involvement construct can productively influence gerontological practice, in at least three different ways. First, the Vital Involvement principle asserts that as we gerontologists are involved with meeting the special needs of an older woman, we are also part of influencing her ongoing development, that is, who she is and is becoming, as she will experience the rest of her life.
This double influence on current needs and ongoing development suggests meaningful questions for practitioners and program developers, about our own scope of practice, and specific practice elements. Consider an year-old woman in the independent-living section of a multiple-care-level senior housing community. She seeks help for problems of weariness and arthritis-related difficulty in shopping and cooking. Will we, as case managers or facility-based social workers, learn enough about this particular woman to understand what she values in her life?
Will she still be able to walk to the afternoon Bible study classes she eagerly anticipates each morning? Practitioners who are sensitive to vital involvement will consider such disparate issues. Comparable investigators will conduct research that addresses these concepts, the practice elements designed to implement them, and the assessment and outcome measures that reflect them.
Second, the principle of Vital Involvement requires us to recognize that elders are influencing us, as individual professionals and organizations. So, too, are they influencing their own family and community members? The E-mail message field is required. Please enter the message. Please verify that you are not a robot. Would you also like to submit a review for this item?
Vital Involvement in Old Age
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