Steven Rubin, MD, a nationally recognized expert in working with aging adults, created the phrase Gerolescence“ to describe the phase of life between middle and late adulthood.” (Autumn Leaves, p.81). Gerolescence can be a time for growth and hope, in which aging adults recognize opportunities to find new kinds of fulfillment, apart from their identities as workers and/or parents. At this later phase of life, aging adults can grow emotionally and spiritually and in contentment, focusing on life in ways that they did not have the time or wisdom to do when younger.
For many, the joys of grandchildren give aging adults an opportunity to give time and support to a younger generation in a more leisurely way, now that their own children are grown. Volunteer work adds the satisfaction of sharing talents and gifts with others. During Gerolescence, some aging adults have time to pursue travel and hobbies and for which they never had time when they were younger.
Yes, Gerolescence can be a wonderful time!
But Gerolescence can also be a time of challenge. Unresolved hurts or trauma that has not healed; unhappy relationships that have been left untended and yearn for reconciliation; adult children who never “launched;” declines in health and in physical strength; planned retirement or unplanned retirement (either from illness or from layoffs in an economy in which older workers are often the first to be let go– “Employee of the Month” one week and laid off the next)–can interrupt the Autumn of our lives and bring sadness, depression, anxiety, and despair. The loss of hopes, dreams, expectations, our health and strength, or a divorce are examples of “non-finite” losses, which we must grieve as we would grieve for a beloved person who has died.
During Gerolescence, when our spouses, family members, friends, or pets die, we are reminded that we, too, will not live forever. This is frightening to some Gerolescents; yet for others this recognition is an opportunity for spiritual growth, in which reminders of our own mortality help us to count each minute of every day as a blessing, and to lead lives filled with gratitude. The recognition of our mortality can motivate us to seek forgiveness and to forgive others, to heal broken relationships, and to restore our relationship with God.
If Gerolescence is not treating you so well, it is definitely a time to chat with God, whether or not you and God have communicated recently. He is always there, ready to chat, no matter how estranged you might feel from Him. It may also sbe time to speak to a mental health professional to get your life back on track, to complete your unfinished grieving for both finite and not-finite losses, and to work on finding joy in the Autumn of your life.