The development at age is performed in the direction of human spiritual maturity. By spiritual maturity in psychology one can mean the determination of a human to solve his life problem to the more and more full extent.
The destination of age, to our mind, can be derived from E. Ericson´s theory. In his opinion, the life cycle final stage is the psycho-social conflict of "integrity against desperation". The primary task of this period is to accept the worth of the life spent. People should look back and reconsider their achievements and failures. Consequently, the focus of attention should be shifted from the future to the past experience. It becomes possible only when the previous stages were finished successfully. E Ericson marks some components of such a state - the acceptance of one´s life journey as the only proper one without dispraising others´ life journeys; the sense of "universal" solidarity with people of various times and nations, when every welcomed human seems to be native and sort of close. Only then the form of active relationship of a human with the life narrowness will become wisdom "with many shades of meaning from "mind" maturity to knowledge concentration, - matured judgment and deep cosmic comprehension". [Ericson E. Identity: Youth and crisis. - M., 1996.] In our opinion, wisdom here can be considered as the highest form of spiritual development of a person.
Otherwise, as opposed to wisdom, a sense of despair attended by affections concerning unrealized opportunities and committed errors is formed. A shortage or lack of integrity in such people can be manifested in a concealed death anxiety, sense of frustration and desperation because of the impossibility to change anything. It can be hidden behind the disgust of a person to itself or complaint of social institutions or individuals. [Khukhlayeva O.V. Psychology of development: youth, maturity, old age - M.: Asadema, 2002 - pp. 38-43.]
Speaking on development tasks of a personality at the age of old, Slobodchikov V.I. notices that, on the one hand, during this time it is extremely important to realize the necessity to work on the completion of what can be accomplished. And on the other hand, - to feel the limits of the possible and accept the imperfectness of both itself and the outside world. [Slobodchikov V.I. Tsukerman G.A. Integral periodization of general mental development - Problems of Psychology, N5, 1996.]
From our point of view, it is necessary to consider one more specific task of personality development at the age of old - it is the self-sentiment within the life-death system. According to Novikov I.B., the age of old is a bridging phase between life and death; it is a period of tense inner work related to the realization of one´s own death inevitability. [Novik I.B. Life-death system - M., 1992.]
Discussing the old age personality development tasks, one can´t help considering the elderly age crisis, which is typical of this period.
In the elderly age crisis one can mark two basic lines. The first one - is the necessity to admit the finiteness of one´s own existence. The second one - is the admittance of the necessity to perform those life tasks, which were not being performed during the previous life.
In case of a successful accommodation of the crisis in elderly people their attitude to their own life in the period of old age is changed. The attitude to the old age as a period of rest disappears. The old age starts to be perceived as the period of a serious moral work and moral enhancement. Let us view, how the critical state in elderly people can manifest itself, in detail. Let us begin with the fact that the most difficult thing is to let the idea of finiteness of one´s life on the Earth. That is why we can so often observe the non-admittance of the old age itself by them. The aging manifestation many people tend to consider as symptoms of an illness, which, as any illness, can disappear. That is why so much time is spent for curing and doctors´ prescriptions adherence. Sometimes the struggle with aging becomes the primary occupation of a retiree. In this case a super valued attitude to healthcare products and hypochondriac concentration on their painful feelings are possible.
In some elderly people the general background of mood can low down somehow. A blue, pensive mood without any objective reasons becomes more and more often. A resentful temper and anxious suspiciousness increase, and negative emotional responses to some or other troubles become rather long.
Shakhmatov N.F. supposes that during this period almost half of the elderly suffer from a specific depressive disturbance of mood - so called age-situational depression. A sense of futility and irrelevance, indifference to anything are indicative of it. Most often this loneliness being outlived is just a feeling, and not a real loneliness. [Shakhmatov N.F. Psychic aging - M., 1996.] Research workers describe intensifying of biotype fears connected with growing helplessness and the body´s functions´ senescence. Moreover, irrational fears (for example, fear for aggression, chase), moral fears (to render an account of one´s own life sense) appear. It is possible to say that the general fear level grows considerably. Some researchers suppose that many behavior patterns traditionally referred to the elderly - jerk responses, proneness to speculations and criticism of the environs, restraint - can be interpreted as their own struggle with fears and anxiety.
An essential aspect of the crisis is the deprivation of claim for recognition in many elderly people. It is the result of the fact that the formal recognition fundamentals - the status, material wealth, appearance - get lost. In those people, for who the significance of the formal recognition indicators is higher than that of the informal ones, the threat of ego destruction and self-esteem lowering emerges.
It should be also noted that an elderly person has to organize his/her time in a new way. Earlier life in many ways depended on external circumstances, work in particular. Now the human stays face to face with himself, that is hard and unusual for many.
One more activity type, which suffers the greatest changes at the old age, is communication. On the one hand, researchers mark a growing proneness to conflict in communication of the elderly with each other, and, on the other hand, they speak on the possibility of gaining the sense of attachment as a result of loneliness fear influence, and also the communication worth revision under the influence of a soon leave.
Also the conflicts between generations become common, they being connected with the unwillingness to perform new roles by both senior and junior family members. Very often the elderly people´s care of the younger generation bears the character of hyper-tutorship and causes conflicts.
The elderly age crisis course is worsened by desexualization of the elderly. Sex differences in clothing and behavior blend. Every conversation about sex relations is rejected harshly and sometimes aggressively.
In spite of negative manifestations, and often contrary to the biological influence, the personality development at the age of old can bear a positive character and be attended by the feelings of happiness and joy unusual in youth and associated with enjoying life.
- Alexandrova M.D. Problem of social and psychological gerontology - L., 1974.
- Yermolayeva M.V. Practical psychology of old age - 2002.
- Krasnova O.V. Social psychology of old age - M., 2002.
- Slobodchikov V.I., Tsukerman G.A. Integral periodization of general mental development - Problems of Psychology, N5, 1996.
- Khukhlayeva O.V. Psychology of development: youth, maturity, old age - M., 2002.
- Feldstein D.I. Psychology ofcomin-of-age - M., 1999.
- Shakhmatov N.F. Psychic aging - M., 1996.
The work was submitted to international scientific conference «Basic and applied research. Education, economics and law», September, 9-16, 2008, Italy (Rome, Florence), came to the editorial office on 16.07.2008.