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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Wisdom: Ego Integrity vs. Despair (Late adulthood, 65-death)
            Existential Question: Is it OK to Have Been Me?
Erikson Last Sage of Development
             As we grow older and become senior citizens we tend to slow down our productivity and explore life as a retired person. It is during this time that we contemplate our accomplishments and are able to develop integrity if we see ourselves as leading a successful life. If we see our life as unproductive, or feel that we did not accomplish our life goals, we become dissatisfied with life and develop despair, often leading to depression and hopelessness.
           The final developmental task is retrospection: people look back on their lives and accomplishments. They develop feelings of contentment and integrity if they believe that they have led a happy, productive life. They may instead develop a sense of despair if they look back on a life of disappointments and unachieved goals.
         This stage can occur out of the sequence when an individual feels they are near the end of their life (such as when receiving a terminal disease diagnosis).

The Importance of Social Relationships in Old Age

           While the Baby Boomers were still young adults, Erick Erikson one of the founding developmental psychologists in Western Society, wrote the book “Vital Involvement in Old Age.” Now as the Boomers approach their lives as seniors and society is rocked by their presence and the the effects of “Aging Society” it is important for us all and particularly our senior citizens to sit back and take look at their lives. Erikson claimed that the central factor for seniors is the achievement of wisdom.  Failing that he suggested an alternative live flow dominated by despair.
         Unlike relatively simple “Intelligence”, Wisdom reflects an understanding decisions about behaviour in social relationships.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Knowing Ourselves

Some Information About Our Aging Selves[i]

         In the fall of 2010 I posted on this blogspot an item entitled Who Am I? It was based on the theory and research of Alfred Adler who’s model of personality I used during the years I practiced as a registered psychologist in British Columbia.  I still believe that his theory is very useful in developing an understanding of our aging personality. But so are the ideas of Robert Atchley and I intend, in this blog post, to use the article cited at the bottom to discuss the self-continuity life of elders.  I used Adler’s model to counsel individuals during their working lives.
         The question is just how much adjustment is required as we move into old age.  How do we know just what is happening? To this Atchley asserts “…it is our experience of aging, first in others and then in ourselves, that creates what aging means to us in contrast to what aging means in our culture or to people in general.”
         Atchley continues by saying he will discuss 1) aging as a subjective experience, 2) negative messages about aging that we receive from others 3) changes in personality and self that provide the context in which experiences and messages are received, 4) various defenses for maintaining a positive self image, and 5) various factors that can result in low self-esteem in later life.” 
         I will provide some information from each of the five sections.

1)   As we age even with the experience of much physical decline some people “…still retain a vital and hopeful outlook. Others are utterly defeated by seemingly trivial changes in circumstances.”   Further as older persons we must be able to struggle against age discrimination.  We are often categorized by the idea that we “…lack the physical, mental, social or educational resources necessary to cope on our own with the demands of life.”
2)   “There is no question that what others tell older people about themselves and about aging and the aged in general is sometimes based on negative stereotypes and delivered in a cruel and impersonal way.”  I specifically relate to this with my studies of ageism.
3)   Research has “…found that after middle age, adaptation patterns show no significant changes with age.  This is consistent with psychology’s Continuity Theory that is the tool Atchley is using.
4)   Changes in self-concepts which include what we think we are, what we think we ought to be like, our “…moral assessment of how well we live up to our ideal self and self esteem “…whether we like or dislike ourselves and how much.” As we develop experience this tool becomes increasingly useful.
5)    What we think and feel about ourselves as we age?
     “The self-concept and ideal self are often tied to the social positions we occupy, the roles we play, and the norms associated with our personal characteristics (note that while I retired last August, I have continued to feed this blog and have signed up as a substitute instructor at Kwantlen). 
         When we are in younger age groups, youth, young adult, and middle age, with the roles we take up and let go of, it is “…often difficult to develop a firm sense of self”. “Self-esteem, scores of older people living independently in the community are nearly double those of high-school students…Another way to say this is that self-acceptance increases with age and experience.”
         Finally, just to keep things balanced:

         “To the extent that one’s observations of one’ self are relatively honest, the theory gets better as time goes on…But other people never develop a firm theory of self that even could be tested. They don’t quite know what to expect of themselves in various situations, and the result is inconsistent and confused behavior.”
 The article discussed above has more information about this topic.  If you have access to research data bases GO FOR IT!!

[i] Atchley, Robert C. (1982).  The Aging Self. In Psychotherapy: Theory Research             and Practice;  Vol. 19, (4)  (downloaded from the internet) p.p. 388-396

Thursday, May 24, 2012

A Comprehensive Definition of Ageism

A Comprehensive Definition of Ageism1

This article is an extremely useful one as it encourages us to look carefully at what we mean by the term ageism. It is based on a review of ageist research projects and provides us with deeper meaning.  I am going to reproduce and discuss a couple of paragraphs on page 15.  The section is entitled “A comprehensive definition of Ageism. Then I will add some comments of my own.
“Our comprehensive definition of Ageism is as follows:

“Ageism is defined as negative or positive stereotypes, prejudice, and/or discrimination against (or advantage of) elderly people on the basis of their chronological age or on the basis of a perception of them as being ‘old’.  Ageism can be implicit or explicit and can be expressed on a micro- meso- or macro-level.”
The concept includes the classic social psychological components in the form of; 1) cognitive (stereotypes), 2) affective (prejudice) and 3) behavioral components (discrimination); in other words, how we on the basis chronological age or age categorization mistakenly: 1) think about, 2) feel about, 3) and act toward the aging human. Furthermore, ageism can operate both consciously (explicitly) and unconsciously (implicitly); and it can manifest itself on three different levels: individual (micro-level), in social networks (meso-level), and institutional  and cultural level (macro-level).
As a consequence the definition contains the following key dimensions:
The three classic components (the cognitive, affective and  behavioral)
The positive/negative aspect (positive and negative ageism)
The conscious/unconscious aspect (implicit and explicit  ageism)
The typological division of levels (ageism on micro-, meso- and  macro level.

1  Iversen,  T.N, (2009). A Conceptual Analysis of Ageism, Nordic Psychology Vol  61,(3) 4-22   DOI 10.1027/1901-2276.61.3.4

Monday, May 21, 2012

Strengthening Intergenerational Relationships

Ageism and ICAL[i]

         My wife and I founded the Intergenerational Centre of Action Learning (ICAL)[ii] several years ago.  Our goal is to bring together the younger and older age groups in projects that will help them increase familiarity between each other.  For example one of our successful projects had an art painting workshop where young persons and older age adults spent an afternoon together doing art painting. 
         In a book I read recently; A Social-Development View of Ageism created by Joann M. Montepare & Leslie A. Zebrowitz there is a concentration on human development.  After the introduction there is a subheading that reads; What Do Children Know about Age? 
         They reported that research indicates that as children grow up their experience with older persons is a basic experience and these social experiences are “…one of the first and most important social attributes to which children develop a sensitivity that age is “…a primary social concept and that “…children’s earliest social perceptions involve categorization of people on the basis of their age-related characteristics.”  In fact they use the same cues we older people do.
         The important subtitle is; What Are Children’s Attitudes toward Older Adults? The authors proceed to discuss “…children’s feelings toward adults (analogous to prejudice), children’s knowledge about older adults (analogous to stereotypes), and their intended or actual behaviors toward older adults (analogous to discrimination).
         In regard to children’s feelings research indicates that compared to younger persons older adults are “…typically viewed negatively in comparison to younger adults.
         Further children’s beliefs about traits, behaviors and abilities, young people were found to get more complicated including “…older adults’ physical, cognitive, and interpersonal qualities.”  The beliefs are more negative than positive. For instance “A common fear that children have about growing old is becoming sick and dying.
         There also positive stereotypes about older persons in which youths “…often characterize them as un-aggressive, polite, kind, good, friendly and wise”
         Finally we come to subheading Discriminatory Behavior where some research has found “…that children as young as 3 years preferred younger adults over older adults and “…when young children were asked what kind of activities they would engage in with an elderly man, the majority said they would do things like ‘carry things for him’, get his glasses, ‘push him in a wheel chair’, or ‘bury him’.
         For those of you who wish to have more information, there is a description of book at the bottom of this post.  Elizabeth and I intend to continue developing intergenerational projects that will build age equality.  Finally here are:

Ways to Attack Ageism[iii]

Ø    Make Older Adults visible and important
Ø    Educate and foster more positive public attitudes about aging
Ø    Advance social health policy to provoke incentives for active living at all stages of life
Ø    Involve older adults in all aspects of community recreation, planning and civic affairs
Ø    Consider the full spectra of older adult interests and needs in program design.
Ø    Promote intergenerational physical activity

[i]  The factual material for this blog post can be found in Ageism: Stereotyping and Prejudice Against Older Persons (Edited by Todd Nelson ISBN 0-262-14077-2 Published by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (2002)  [There are 12 chapters and 359 pages focused on various aspects of Ageism
[ii] For a view go to
[iii] For more info go to

Friday, May 18, 2012

Our Study of Ageism

              In the early 1990’s I began my journey in the study of ageism.  Along the way, I the assistance of two young men, Yongjie Yon and Lawrence Prasade who have gone on to excellent adulthood.  With their help I was able to make my only trip away from North American when I was invited to an International Conference in Barcelona Spain; where I was able to share our research findings.
            Those of you who have been following this blog, with over 131 postings, during the last three years know that I divide my attention between the study of ageism and retirement.  Recently I came across the material I used to present when I went to Spain.  I intend to share it on this blog entry.
            The data comes from the nearly 600 persons, 55 or older from Port Coquitlam, Vancouver, Langley Township.  Senior’s centres and Recreation Centres were our primary source of respondents.
 Now to the results:
           Over all, just over 80% of the respondents reported that they had experience some form of ageism.  Below are the major categories

  • The most common report was being he target of ageist humour. This  type of ageism is confined almost entirely to persons with European backgrounds and generated the most diverse marginal comments. We have referred to this type of ageism as 

Personal Ageism.
·      The non-European groups experienced more Institutional Ageism than Personal Ageism
·      Older South Asians were more likely to be denied rental housing, denied employment, have difficulty getting loans, be ignored by waiters, be not taken seriously and ignored generally.
·        Among the Chinese community, just less than a third has been denied employment because of age. Generally they appear to be more “buffered” than other groups in the experience of ageism.
·      Persons under 64 years old and those 65-74 reported ageism more often 
·       Persons 54 to 65 reported more work related ageism being       rejected on the basis of how they look.                     
·      Persons 65-75 experienced more ageist humor and were refused rental housing more often.

Gender  We found gender to be an interesting predictor of age                             discrimination
·       Older women experienced more personal ageism For  instance  they reported being talked down to and being the object of jokes more than older men
·      Older men reported more institutional ageism including having difficulty getting rental housing and loans; they were also more likely to be called bad names.                   
 Levels of Education:  On this variable, ageism tended to follow a positive linear pattern
·       More education = more ageism.  As the number of years spent in school increased, persons were more likely to be treated with less dignity and respect, to be patronized, talked down to and denied having promotions at work.

Inter-item correlations 
·      A general pattern, experienced equally by all groups was, being treated with less dignity and respect, being ignored, being not taken seriously, being patronized and talked down to and having other assume they have difficulty understanding.
·      We see this as a pattern of attacks on self- esteem. Perhaps this is where the humour and jokes come in. One respondent, on the back of his survey wrote. “ If I didn’t keep my sense of humour, I’d be in real trouble

 One response equally prevalent among all groups was:
·      “Being told by a doctor or nurse that one’s problems are caused by age,” This is particularly troubling because it suggests that older people may be dismissed and not taken seriously.  From comments written on the back of the surveys, respondents were not happy with it.
Looking into the future
We are committed to raising awareness and to   uncovering the roots of the Ageism “epidemic.” 
 My wife and I have created ICAL, The intergenerational Centre for Action Learning.  If you are interested go to Take a look and let me know what you think.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

What is Retirement about

Retirement Attitudes 
 You have decided to talk with a friend about your upcoming retirement. Do any of these three descriptions come close to your way of thinking?

Bob’s (age 55) Ideas:
Bob reports that he is pretty much committed to the idea of retirement.  Upon retirement he wants to try new experiences. On reflection he feels that is what he has been doing all along, trying this and that…. not out of a feeling of frustration, more out of curiosity. “I have always had a curiosity and an exploring urge,” he says. I am interested in getting involved community activities in an active way rather than just donating money.
He goes on to say that when he picks up the local newspaper and reads about people in their early 50’s who have died, he asks himself wouldn’t it be a terrible thing to work all this time and never get to actively work in community projects. “When you’re 40”, he says, “you don’t think much about getting old and dieing.

Carol’s (age 45) Ideas:
Assuming that things continue the way they are, I’m going to keep doing the same thing, adding variety when I can and building in retirement ideas.  I have never been able to explore my interest in art. I think I could be good enough to actually bring in some money. I might even find work a gallery.  When I think about retirement, I don’t feel prepared for it.  And, I’m somewhat troubled.  I will keep working till my late 60’s or maybe even my early 70’s, assuming that I remain competent.  “Work is really important to me.  “For me, I will think about retirement about four or five years before I actually do it.  But, really it’s hard to think about giving up work at all.”

Alex’s (age 60) ideas:
        Alex says that he is surprised how many retired people he knows who are willing and interested in talking about their retirement.  “They appear happy” he says, “but when I ask them. It seems that all they do is drive around in the Winnebago’s and playing golf with the same people.  He feels that’s appalling for people to spend retirement like that and has made up his mind that he won’t be “spellbound” like that.  He is more frightened of retirement than death and can’t ever imagine giving up work.
         He sees retirement as doing nothing.  Equating it with death and can’t imagine giving up work. “I don’t see it as a happy time at all.”

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Life Goes On

Continuing to Matter After Retirement[i]

         After retirement some of us, especially if we have had professional careers, may find ourselves longing for the power and/or prestige related our previous employment.  In short, we need to be noticed. For me as a former university professor, it was a question of prestige more than power.  Standing in front of the class lecturing or facilitating discussion groups is both challenging and exciting.  And, having someone I meet on the street say “Hi professor Anderson” is very pleasing.
         The question is will my former successes get in the way of my retirement adjustment. Will I be able to let go of my previous expectations?  It is now a year since I retired and I have recently signed on as a substitute instructor at Kwantlen. Since last September I’ve been called a couple of times to substitute for someone who couldn’t make it. It was really interesting to be a guest speaker in the classroom and only having to teach one class
         The creation and presentation of my blog and workshops have been a way of adjusting to a new life. I will still be on centre stage as I facilitate the workshops and I have had visitors to my blog from all over the world.  These new experiences will help me to reflect on my life and perhaps develop some wisdom about my life process.  Even now I reflect on the life I have left, what skills I will be able to bring to the community and appropriate goals till the end. 
         I developed my first university goals during my last year of high school when I decided to go to university and continue playing football.  After achieving my undergraduate degree I went on to get my Masters and Ph.d degrees. Some of my football co-players at the University Tommy Larscheid and Merlin Olsen expanded their sports goals from university and became famous as athletic professionals. I followed the goal of becoming a university professor.  For the last ten years I’ve been on the Board of the local senior’s centre and now I’ve created this blog. Each of us has a unique story that continues after we retire.  I would like to hear about some of yours. 

[i]  Key ideas for this blog entry taken from:  Revitalizing Retirement by Nancy Schlossberg.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Unwinding Ageism

Advancing Well-being of Older Adults

         Several days ago, as I googled across the Internet I came across a very interesting article entitled Ageism Concepts and Theories.[i] I find it very informative and it has helped me deepen my understanding of Ageism issues. 
         Near the end of the paper there is some material that can help us better understand the international struggle against ageism.  I am going to display some of this material in this blog entry. To begin:
         “The Expert Working Group of the United Nations has agreed on twenty-six specific recommendations to national governments to advance the wellbeing of older adults, several of which should interest law reform bodies in different countries. Among other things, governments are encouraged:
·      to close the gap between law and the implementation of law;
·      to promote positive discrimination (affirmative action) of older persons as a legitimate step in national laws;
·      to put the burden of proof of age discrimination on the violator not victim of age discrimination;
·      to  provide easily accessible and free identity documentation to older men and women to access their economic, social, political, and civil entitlements;
·      to provide free paralegal support and free legal aid to older persons to defend their rights and help resolve disputes within the community structures and to gain them access to formal judicial systems;
·      to incorporate a gender perspective in all policy actions on aging and eliminate discrimination on the basis of age and gender;
·      to provide affordable and appropriate health care support and social protection for older persons including preventive and rehabilitation;
·      to promote a set of measures aimed at the empowerment of older persons in various areas;
·      to initiate a set of measures geared at preventing discrimination against older persons in all fields and areas, changing negative stereotypes in media and other fields;
·      to promote evidence-based studies related to the empowerment of older persons, provision of health care and long-term care on a systematic basis;
·      to give visibility to older persons’ rights among leading policy makers and educate them about the rights of older persons and the aging process;
·      to request scholars to include older persons’ concerns in their research;
·      to encourage national activity on older persons’ rights in cooperation with the UN Regional Commissions;
·      to encourage alternative means of conflict resolution to promote mediation in the home family and society as early as possible;
·      to support legal mechanisms in late life planning, health care, wills, and power of attorney, living wills, organ donations, and property;
·      to assure legal capacity in late life with due process;
·      to ensure participation of older women and men in decision-making processes that effect them
·      to acknowledge basic rights, such as legal assistance, access to paid family leave, and programs, such as tax incentives for formal care and relieve for caregivers;
·      to develop elder-specific professional-rules-of-ethics to ensure ethical and professional legal services for older clients;
·      to revise existing legislation in accordance with internationally accepted norms (for example on social security, health, property and inheritance) to avoid discrimination on the basis of age and gender.

[i]  All the information about this topic and much more can be found by googling:   Ageism: Concepts and Theories

Monday, May 7, 2012

Retirement Readiness Questionaire

Retirement Readiness 1 Retirement Readiness Questionaire
Take some time to think about the following questions and what your answers tell you about your thoughts on retirement. The less the number of thoughts, the less you may be prepared. 1. Why are you thinking about retirement now? (You get one point if you think that someone who knows you well considers your answer Good and Clear)
2. Do you want to retire? (One point if yes)
3. Have you attended a retirement preparation program or seminar focused on financial planning? (One point if yes)
4. Have you attended a retirement preparation program or seminar focused on social planning? (E.g. community activities and interpersonal endeavors)? (One point if yes)
5. How would your finances be if you retired now? (One point if good or better)
6. Have you developed any outside interests, hobbies, volunteer activities or areas of new learning? (One point if yes)
7. Have you planned new activities where you would interact with people on a regular basis, offering opportunities for new friendships? (One point if yes)
8. What do your family and friends say about you retiring? (One point if they think you are doing the right thing)
9. Have you considered whether you want a complete or partial retirement? In other words, have you considered part-time or temporary work, or even a less than full-time small business venture? Emphases here are on consideration. (One point if Yes, even if you choose not to go this route)
10. During retirement, will the process of making at least a modest contribution helping out in various volunteer or other activities be sufficient for you, or do you feel you need to make an immediate major difference in what you do? (One point if yes to the first part of the question or to the second part if you feel you have lined up an activity where you can make an immediate major contribution)
11. What is important and fulfilling for you? How do your retirement plans relate to your thinking here? (One point it someone who is reliable and knows you, feels you give a straight answer and considers your answer Good and Clear)
12. What is it that gives you a sense of meaning and purpose in life? How do your retirement plans relate to your thinking here? (One point it someone who is reliable and knows you, feels you give a straight answer and considers your answer Good and Clear)
• • •
• • •
Scoring--What is your Retirement Readiness Quotient?
12       points:    you are in position for a great retirement 
10-11  points:    your retirement will likely be highly satisfying
 8- 9    points:    your retirement could have some problems that are likely fixable.
 6-7    points:     you could be challenged by ambivalent feelings about retirement, requiring a                    _____________solid effort to bring your situation up a notch 
 3-5    points         you are potentially in a trouble zone with your retirement now working well,       _____________   short of a major effort to get it back on track. 
0-2    points       You are in jeopardy of having an unfulfilling retirement, requiring an all out  _____________effort to have things work out to your liking

Friday, May 4, 2012

Co-0p Radio and Community Building

My Visit to Vancouver’s Co-op Radio[i]

         Yesterday, at the invitation of Ray Wagner, I visited Co-op Radio in downtown Vancouver.  I took the sky train from surrey and got off at a station named Main Street Science World.  Mr. Wagner is one of their volunteer programmers.  He knew about my blogspot that focuses on retirement issues and ageism.
         I arrived at the Main Street Science World Sky-train station and there was Ray waiting for me. We quickly began our 20-minute walk to the radio station. When we arrived we had a 25-min wait before it was time to go on air.  During that time we explored ideas that we would discuss for the next half hour.
         Mr. Wagner is an excellent discussion leader. Our conversation flowed easily back and forth.  He has the skill to probe on expressed ideas and take topics deeper.
         Before I left home in morning to be dropped off at the Surrey ski-train station Elizabeth as me if I was excited.  I said no I was quite interested.  When she picked me up at the sky train station to go home, I told her that I was very excited and that Ray has invited me back for another session this summer.  I can hardly wait.  Thanks Ray!

[i]  Co-op CFBO 102.7 FM.  For more information go to their website

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Aging and Wisdom

      Before retirement, for many years, I taught the aging course at Kwantlen. While doing so I came across a very interesting definition of wisdom in a book, written by Virginia Burlingame. It is entitled Gerocounseling: Counseling Elder’s and Their Families.
The book describes wisdom as the ability to combine cognitive and emotional qualities including “…mastery over emotions, experience, introspection, reflection, empathy, deliberation and avoidance of the impulsive, unconcern with trivia and cautiousness.” Another definition is the “…power of judging rightly and following the soundest course of action, based on knowledge, experience, and understanding”.  This is important because older people, to successfully age, are expected to acquire wisdom.  ( A touch of positive ageism?)
         Paul Baltes, an early explorer of wisdom and one of the founders of the Max-Plank Institute designed material to help us explore the use of wisdom in life management problems:

According to the Max-Plank Institute wisdom has five components:
1.   Rich factual knowledge (general and specific knowledge about the conditions of life and it’s variations)
2.   Rich procedural knowledge (general and specific knowledge about the conditions of life and its variations)
3.   Life Span Contextualism (knowledge about the contexts of life and their temporal [developmental] relationships
4.   Relativism (knowledge about differences in values, goals, and priorities)

Below are a couple of scenarios describing reactions to work related issues. I would appreciate it if you would post your ideas about how the persons described below could use wisdom to cope with their problems

Coping with Retirement
Ted, a former CEO, now in his seventies, retired at 65, thinking that was what he should do. But after a couple of years he discovered the whole syndrome of being young-old. “You have all your juices, all your ability but no obligations to go work just for money.” His major surprise was discovering the syndrome of being young-old.  He has come to you for advice.
           He tells you that: “When you’ve had power for a number of years, your value is your power not your abilities.” He further explains. “When you are out of the ‘power loop’ your abilities are no longer valued.
           “I’ve started looking for another job, but being in my 70’s, I get a very cold reception.  They seem to listen to you but they don’t see you. You’re a non-person. I tried doing some volunteer work but it just wasn’t very satisfying. What do you think I should do?”

Hard Choices
Joyce, a 60-year-old widow, recently completed a degree in business management and opened her own business. She has been looking forward to this new challenge. She has just heard that her son has been left with two small children to care for.  She is considering the following options:  She can plan to give up her business and live with her son, or she can arrange for financial assistance for her son to cover child-care costs. What should Joyce do and consider in making her plans? What additional information is do you think she needs?

You can explore your own life issues by answering the following questions?
What brings happiness?
How have you overcome fear in your life?
When do you do your best work?
What advice would you give for success?
Do you see yourself as a creative person? 
How do you express your creativity?
What do you think the world needs?
What is the best way to resolve conflicts?
What are our main responsibilities as adults?
What are our responsibilities as citizens?
What do you think is society’s main problems?
What makes marriage successful?
What advice would you give parents?