Shifting the Aging Paradigm Exponentially
By Stefan Deutsch
The ever-growing world-wide aging population is presenting seemingly insurmountable problems for governments, organizations, families, and aging individuals and their caregivers. We must necessarily continue dealing with the symptoms, but concomitantly must address the real source of the problem: our lack of understanding lifespan, the very purpose of our aging experience.
• Medical Definition — Aging: The process of becoming older, a process that is genetically determined and
• An age-related increase in mortality rates shortly after maturity
• Physiological changes that typically lead to a functional decline with age
Do we think any of these definitions will excite and inspire us to fully participate in this process? Is the purpose of life to be born, eat and sleep, go to school, work, have a family, accumulate possessions, save money, retire and die as centenarians? Or is there more to life, more to aging, much more? Is there a purpose to our aging process other than procreating and dying?
What have we achieved with our interminable quest to overcome early death by:
• curing illness
• establishing food sufficiency
• trying to master nature
The basis of the problem has everything to do with our ignorance of LIFESPAN and its most important stage — the third stage — which at present we don’t believe exists. This ignorance fosters a negative context that subconsciously contributes to people feeling less inclined to take a proactive role in maintaining their health and wellbeing, or to explore where they can make the greatest difference. This exploration, coincidentally, does not have to have anything to do with their careers, or even their skills and hobbies. What if the reason for our overcoming life’s obstacles was to get to the last stage — in order have the opportunity to experience the meaning of life by making our most important contributions to humanity?
What if it turns out that human lifespan is designed as a process of continuous growth and development — in which each stage of development supersedes the one before? It has to do with what everyone’s true potential is: to become someone who can touch others of any race, gender, ethnicity, age, nationality, religion and to make them whole, make them feel life is worth living no matter what their circumstances are.
The context promulgated by our present academic concept, with the help of the media, is that after 30 or 40 we’re in a declining state, and no amount of creams, muscle building or Viagra will make anyone feel better about what life seemingly is conspiring to do — a slow death — especially to our sense of self-worth and self-respect. That is the consequence of our existing body-brain, 2-stage developmental concept.
The importance of understanding that there is in fact a third stage of life — another yet unexplored developmental phase of lifespan — is that without it humanity will continue to struggle, both violently and in silence, with the quality of life, as well as with their own emotional and physical health. In order to truly thrive, the hypothesis of a third stage, full of potency and productivity, full of creativity and love, has to be considered. Only that stage has the developmental potential to inspire people to take better care of their bodies and minds, not to mention inspiring all those they come into contact with personally and professionally. To underscore what leaders in the field of aging are saying, here is a note I just received;
“I am writing to you as the Coordinator of Coming of Age, a nonprofit (both national and local NYC) which is in the forefront of the positive aging movement. You are researching, exploring and advocating for exactly what we believe to be true: that we who are over 50 are in a 3 rd stage of growth and development, not declining or diminishing, but realizing our full potential. We would be most grateful for an article for our national newsletter, so thousands of our members have the opportunity to read how you “redefine aging as an ever upward-arcing lifespan process we all can look forward to at any age.” They are longing to hear your message.” Pamela Ramsdem — www.pssuse.org “…redefine aging as an ever upward-arcing lifespan process.” This sentiment is echoed both outside of and within the academic community — but we don’t have the evidence to support it primarily because we don’t have the theory to use for research. Finally here is a theory that people have listen to for decades, love, and their universal reaction is, “I hope you are right.”
MY THEORY OF LIFESPAN / AGING
Body/Brain/and a Developmental Self — are conceived, birthed, integrated, and co-dependent — which allows for a 3rd stage of life — that of the Developmental Self.
• First Stage 0–20 — fully developing the BODY — physical growth stops
• Second Stage 0–40 — fully developing the BRAIN — mental growth stops…and then?
• Third Stage — from 0–40s and onward — fully developing SELF — growth never stops!
My theory is that lifespan is a three part developmental process, and among other things, the third stage is potentially the most powerful. That expression of power, that inspires and touches others, requires us to be conscious and loving. The importance of this becomes apparent as we come to understand ‘love as nourishment’, a hypothesis I developed 30 years ago, that science has now begun to validate, (Fredrickson, LOVE 2.0). Erich Fromm wrote “…human beings are starved for love.” He might have meant it and we might have understood it figuratively back then, but now we’re beginning to understand that it is literally true. Simply put — love is an essential nourishing energy necessary for human thriving like air, food and water. Yet, our planet’s population is severely malnourished — causing depression, anxiety, chronic illness, anger, violence, divorce and mistrust. It also explains why we are constantly searching for love and why it is so painful when we’re deprived of it. IT ALSO ASSERTS THAT LOVING ONESELF IS NO MORE SELFISH THAT EATING WHEN WE’RE HUNGRY.
My lifespan theory explains in part why, as we age, many tend to become more unconditional, spiritual, religious, patient, supportive, encouraging, accepting and a long list of other loving behaviors. The key for the population approaching the third stage is to be ready to develop this potential to love to its highest level, and using the tools of vision and communication learn to apply it under all circumstances.
This growing, growth-oriented population has the potential to give this essential life-sustaining sustenance in abundance and therefore has a major role and responsibility in the health and wellbeing, the success of our families, communities, and our country and the world. The world indeed needs love, as much as clean air and clean water, and now we know why, and who to turn to for it.
We have both the opportunity and the obligation to redefine aging as an ever upward-arcing lifespan process we all can look forward to at any age. My Continuum Theory of human development clearly lays it out. This paradigm shift in the context of aging is the necessary missing piece to empower, enliven and inspire those approaching this stage to take better care of their bodies and minds in order to fulfill the promise in life ‘that the best is yet to come’, ALWAYS.
On June 6 th I will be speaking at the 2017 Conference on Ageing and Spirituality in Chicago on — “Transforming the Context of Aging: Power to Affect Change through Developing Conscious Awareness and Unconditional Behavior”.
I admire and understand those fighting against ageism, yet something in me feels we’d accomplish more if at the same time we were fighting FOR something — for a new, more exciting, more powerful vision of our lifespan, of which aging is an ever-present part.
Giving and getting nourishing love, (as opposed to romantic infatuation) generates oxytocin, vasopressin and endorphins which are central to our immune system, tissue regeneration, wound healing, and longevity.