Erikson's Stage of Ego Integrity Versus Despair
The following paper elaborates upon Erik Erikson’s stage of ego integrity versus Despair. As many are aware, Erikson writes that the last of his eight life crises is the ego integrity versus despair stage. The purpose of this essay is to look at this final stage and how it relates to older adults and, particularly, to older adults who have developmental disabilities. What follows will be an overview of the ego integrity versus despair stage; how Erikson’s concept relates to seniors with developmental disabilities; and a final examination of whether Erikson’s concept is valid or useful for understanding and thinking about what seniors with developmental disabilities experience.
In the final analysis, the eighth and final stage, it can either be a time of peacefulness and satisfaction or a time of fear and despair; it is really a matter of whether or not a person lives life with the final stages of life in mind. This stage, referred to delicately as late adulthood or maturity, or less delicately as old age, begins sometime around retirement, after the kids have gone, somewhere around the age of 60. Some older adults will protest and say it only starts when you feel old and so on, but that's an effect of our youth-worshipping culture. In Erikson's theory, reaching this stage is a good thing, and not reaching it suggests that earlier problems stunted your development. The task is to develop ego integrity with a minimal amount of despair. This stage, especially from the perspective of youth, seems like the most difficult of all. First comes a detachment from society, from a sense of usefulness, for most people in our culture. Some retire from jobs they've held for years; others find their duties as parents coming to a close; most find that their input is no longer requested or required.
Then there is a sense of biological uselessness, as the body no longer does everything it used to. Then there are the illnesses of...