I was filling out a form the other day, and had to select an age category. Here were the choices: infant, toddler, adolescent, teenager, and adult. And I wondered, is that all there is? They break down the first twenty-one years into four stages, but after that, we get one?
Guess we’re all the same after age twenty-one. No need to make distinctions based on the amazing, challenging, heartbreaking, inspiring, devastating, and empowering stages during the sixty-some years many of us are blessed to live, once we reach “adulthood.”
I disagree, and propose we assign four categories of adulthood, based on emotional development/wisdom/maturity rather than a number.
- YOUNG ADULT, when you’re just getting started in your independence.
- MIDDLE ADULT, when you’re more settled and your life seems on a path (you think so, youngster, but ha ha! Just wait.)
- GROWN ADULT, when you’re past child rearing or nearing retirement/menopause/independence/scary new changes. Now you’re all up in the air again, trying to figure out the second half.
- SENIOR, when you’re pretty sure of yourself again. Hopefully you’re now feeling settled and wise.
Dr. Bill Thomas suggests there are two phases of the adult stage: adulthood and elderhood. He’s a geriatrician, one of only six thousand in the USA at present. (Yes, I’m worried about that number, too.) But anyway, he started out as an OB/GYN guy, and says he’s so lucky to have had a career that began with welcoming little humans into the world, and now helping them when it’s time to leave.
Here’s a wonderful TED talk he did about the categories thing, called Elderhood Rising. Isn’t that a great title? He makes so many great points. Here’s one: society – and that includes us – judges older people against the standard set by youth. The more we’re like THEM, the more value we have. So if we’re not STILL driving or waterskiing or climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, we “are disappeared,” Dr. Bill says. The video is about twenty minutes, so if you’re in a hurry, skip to the halfway point and you’ll get the gist.
So, what do you think of my proposed categories, and where do you think you fit? And BTW, have a happy Valentine’s Day next Thursday. See you on Friday.