Aging as Adulthood-Plus

Old age often is seen as adulthood-minus, a situation in which normal losses in appearance, capacity and resources create an overriding impression that agers become less than they were as adults. At first glance that seems logical. But when one looks at the situation in greater depth it possible to see that adults who survive into advanced aging while losing some capacities have also gained wisdom and skills they didn’t have as adults.

When the young move into adulthood, they gain new skills and build on previous knowledge and skills as they learn from living with adulthood. They also leave behind some parts of childhood that are no longer appropriate in adulthood. The same process holds true when we as adults move into the years of advanced aging. For both groups this type of learning tends to emerge quietly, day by day and experience by experience. It is noticed only when looking back over time.

When we adults moved into post-adulthood, we brought with us the capacities developed in adult years that then were available to use and build on as we moved ever more deeply into aging. The significant difference is that here we’ve had to manage daily living requirements and overlying conditions with:

  • ongoing, normal age related changes (ARCs) to our capacities that are not only continually emerging and progressing (each in its own way)
  • pairs or clusters of ARCs each in their current status  aiding and abetting each other. E.g. vision, strength, proprioception each affecting the ARC of balance; loss of sense of smell (anosmia) and aging taste buds et al. 

Have you ever felt as though daily living is like trying to walk on an unstable wavy, slack tight rope?

A concomitant outcome is that day-by-day and situation-by changing situation we’re having to learn how to fine-tune:

  • our awareness of each presenting situation and then
  •  alterations in present strategies or creation of new ones to deal with them.

The consequences can range from maddening inconvenience to life-threatening risks But, through both failures and successes learning goes on.            

It’s not unusual for youngsters and adults to acknowledge and take pride when they manage a new age-related achievement and for others to do so as well.  Somehow this  acknowledgement of achievement seems to be less prevalent for old folks. Perhaps it is because of its focus on tiny details and its constancy. Whatever the reason agers’ achievements in growth in knowledge and skill tend to be either not or less recognized.   But recognized or not, post adulthood offers a remarkable, multidimensional Adulthood Plus.

7 thoughts on “Aging as Adulthood-Plus

  1. I love the term ‘adulthood-plus’. Though not as old nor as experienced at aging as you, I feel many age-related changes now that I’m in my late 70s. I also watch my husband in his late 80s as he adapts his daily habits to cope with physical changes. He suffers from mobility limitations due to peripheral neuropathy. Thank goodness for his custom-made leg braces that help him continue walking. We often discuss observations from your experiences with aging on your blog. It is a wonderful resource!


  2. Agree with all you say here, as I so often do. I wish our society’s tendency to believe that they will never age wasn’t such a huge factor in the prevalence of the kind of ageism that doesn’t recognize the triumphs of agers in all aspects of life.


  3. It is true that so many hard-won accomplishments are achieved in Post-Adulthood! I am thinking of a lovely 80-something-year-old lady in my neighborhood, who is losing her eyesight and having mobility problems but who still can be seen walking with two canes and the assistance of her daughter or a nearby neighbor. Now THERE’S a picture of resilience, ingenuity, and courage!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for a new blog post, even as your 101st birthday is only a few days away. I’m almost 20 years younger than you, but I already notice some of the plusses of old age. For example, my short term memory is shot, my long term memory was never good, and yet certain other cognitive functions seem to be stronger than ever. Creativity is booming. I know you’ll have an explanation for this 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Hello hope you are okay. Been following your blog and hope that by making successful adaptations i too can stay in my home as long as possible.


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