The Ninth Stage of Life: Aging with Enthusiasm
A new stage has been added to the human life cycle due to increasing numbers of the very old. In particular, adults over eighty constitute a new focus for developmental research. These older adults seem to have reached a stage beyond Erikson’s eight stages, first proposed sixty-four years ago. As Joan Erikson suggested, eight stages no longer capture the end of life concerns of this older group. In this paper, I review the research focusing on the self-reports of individuals who are still thriving in their eighties and nineties. I suggest that this research supports a ninth Eriksonian life stage. This ninth stage might be called “Appreciation versus Resignation with the associated strength, Enthusiasm.” A defining aspect of the elders described in the studies cited below is that they express a keen appreciation for their extended years and a determination not to squander them. I discuss implications for practice and for further research.