Life Review And Aging

Life review is an examination of one’s total life experiences as we enter that period we tend to call old age. It’s a time to set what is known as “our house in order.”

The outcome of an older person’s life review is by no means guaranteed. Like all of the other ways of using the past, it can have either favorable or unfavorable consequences. If the elderly person is hard on himself, he views his life as a string of failures and missed opportunities. He may dwell on his shortcomings as a child, a spouse, or a parent and perhaps brand himself guilty of some obscure transgression that has not been forgiven. At the same time he may feel powerless to make amends and face the prospect ahead with trepidation and dread.

By contrast, a favorable life review prepares the way for a more serene attitude toward the future. When an elderly person is able to accept the overall pattern of his life with calm, he can relax and enjoy the years that are still ahead of him.

There can be much satisfaction in sharing with that person’s reflections on the past. We could also glean and deepen our understanding of his life experiences.

We show genuine interest in an older person’s past by being helpful and supportive in several ways:

  • the opportunity to air his experiences thereby making it easier to develop a fresh perspective;
  • the opportunity to discuss his past with another person that will enable him to be more objective;
  • a chance to stand back and take another look at the experiences contained in a formalized life review.

Age barriers break down when the past is shared. There is no age restriction on turning to the past for help to meet challenges of the present and future. However, overuse of the past can also be associated with reduced opportunities for sharing experiences with others as well as reduced stimulation in the present environment.

The future as viewed from the perspective of a life review can be of great interest to older people just as the past is to many of their juniors.
One last point that is yet to be expressed regarding a life review is the concept of forgiveness i.e.: an opportunity to end bitter and toxic resentments over ancient disagreements and misunderstandings with friends and loved ones by turning toward a fresh start that begins with an open dialogue. Therefore if you are personally in an embittered relationship, reach out and begin with “I am sorry!”

Quotable quote: “In goodness you renew each day the work of creation” (from the morning Hebrew prayer book).
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