Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development explains the final stage of life as Ego Integrity versus Despair. According to Cherry (2021), this period includes adults aged 65 and over. During this phase, people look at their life in retrospect and reflect on their experiences (McLeod, 2018). Depending on one’s satisfaction with themselves, some individuals realize that they are happy and fulfilled with life outcomes and goals achieved. However, others can feel regret and despair if they haven’t accomplished what was desired. Every individual can experience both integrity and hopelessness in their final phase; however, balance is essential to feel fulfilled during the late adulthood stage.
Erikson’s theory of Ego Integrity versus Despair is based on the idea that the final stage of life can lead either to wisdom or bitterness. With age, people come to terms with the fact that some goals were reached and others were not. As a result, the more satisfied an individual is with their life, relationships, and achievements, the higher the chances of developing ego integrity. According to Berk (2017), “the capacity to view one’s life in the larger context of all humanity … contributes to the serenity and contentment that accompany integrity” (p. 610). In turn, people who dwell on their failures, regrets, and losses are at risk of feeling desperate and developing depression. Not following one’s dreams and desired paths in life can lead to bitterness and an unhealthy attitude to life later.
Since I am still far from the final stage of my life, as per Erikson’s theory, I do not directly prepare for it for now. I am still productive as I explore life, focusing on my future. I set goals and work consistently to accomplish them, which brings me satisfaction and fulfills me. At the same time, I recognize that failures are an inevitable part of life, and balancing my approach to integrity and despair will be critical in my late adulthood. Furthermore, Berk (2017) states that those who emphasize the achievement of intrinsic or personally rewarding goals tend to be more satisfied with life. They can accept its end easier than people focusing on extrinsic goals such as prestige or money. Therefore, while I recognize the importance of material possessions for a comfortable life, I value close relationships, deep connections, and inner peace and balance as my priority. As can be seen from Erikson’s theory, people who do not find satisfaction in their life in late adulthood risk feeling bitter and hopeless. I attempt to be productive and live mindfully to feel satisfied later in my life.
Various biological, environmental, and cultural issues can affect adults in their final stage of life. For example, such factors as community involvement, self-acceptance, marital satisfaction, and close relationships with others impact one’s psychosocial maturity (Berk, 2017). Dezutter et al. (2020) report that “older adults in nursing homes handle the developmental tasks of late life in distinct and dynamic ways over time” (p. 147). Therefore, environmental factors can present additional challenges to older people’s satisfaction with life.
To summarize, Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development emphasizes the importance of balance between integrity and bitterness during the final stage of life. People who arrive at this stage feeling fulfilled have higher chances of avoiding depressive symptoms compared to people unsatisfied with their life outcomes. Therefore, it is essential to acknowledge the importance of self-acceptance and inner peace resulting from one’s choices throughout the course of life.
Berk, L. (2017). Development through the lifespan (7th ed.). Pearson.
Cherry, K. (2021). Erik Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development. Very Well Mind. Web.
Dezutter, J., Toussaint, L., & Dewitte, L. (2020). Finding a balance between integrity and despair: A challenging task for older adults in residential care. Journal of Adult Development, 27(2), 147-156. Web.
McLeod, S. A. (2018). Erik Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development. Simply Psychology. Web.