Podcast: Aging Well in the Latter Years


Lindsey and Dawn discuss how development continues even in the latter years and how those in this final life stage can maximize it. Dawn shares about developmental milestones for older adults.


Host: Lindsey Steffen, LMHC
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Guest: Dawn Plummer, RMHC
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Speaker 1: (00:00)
Welcome to wellspring on the air where professional Christian counselors share practical life and Bible insights. Why? Because hearts and minds matter. We're glad you joined our show today to hear from our hosts, Tova Kreps, president of wellspring counseling in Miami. Tova is a licensed therapist with many years of experience as a Christian counselor. Tova teaches rights and consults and life. FM is pleased to have wellspring counseling, restoring hearts and minds in our community. Hello, I'm Lindsey Stephan, a licensed mental health counselor at wellspring and cohost for wellspring on the air today. I'm excited to talk with one of our counselors, Dawn Plummer. Thanks for being here.

Speaker 2: (00:38)
Oh, thank you Lindsay. I'm so happy to be here today. Yes, so our show today will be very interesting. We're talking about development in the latter years, so I think we talk a lot about childhood development, but there's not much conversation about development in those later kind of late stage of life phases. So today we're going to be talking about that. Dawn, before we start, would you like to just tell us a little bit about yourself as a clinician? I sure, yes. Actually I was educated at Moody Theological Seminary in Michigan and then I moved back here and am now working as a counselor at wellspring. And actually I just moved back in October. Okay. So I was really struck by just, I forgot how hot it gets. Yeah, yeah. You came in winter and it was still really hot, but I'm thankful because I'm Michigan, it's really cold.

Speaker 2: (01:32)
I think once it hit negative 10 I was ready to come back. So I'm thankful for the Lord for our weather. I didn't really appreciate it when I was growing up cause I'm, I'm raised here, but, okay. Yeah, I didn't appreciate it when I was growing up. So yeah, that's a little bit about me. I am really interested in families, helping families, just really looking at God's model for the family. And oddly enough, that encompasses everyone. Not just couples but individuals because these are the components of a family. And I think when we talk about family, we can't overlook our older generation. Yeah. They are an integral part of the family that we don't really realize, but we're all going to become older generation at some point. So it's something to be thinking about. Yeah. And to maybe think of what you want your life to look like at that stage and just the value, what you want to still be contributing.

Speaker 2: (02:32)
Yeah. And it doesn't stop. Absolutely. And I thank you for saying that. It's like when we think about development, we think about childhood development. We think about a growing kid, but we don't really think about developing in those latter years. So yeah, that was a really great observation. I have a few clients who are kind of in an older stage of life, and I feel like when we talk, some of them are doing the most amazing things Dow in these older years and just perhaps unfortunate circumstances or different things in life. They didn't get to really live life until this phase. But they're enjoying it. They're thriving, loving it. And I think, or even some who have lived well, you know, most of their life that that final phase can be one of the best, you know, it doesn't have to be your 20s and 30s yeah. And I don't think a lot of people know that.

Speaker 2: (03:24)
You know, I think that you think you hit a certain age and it's all downhill from there. That's where we get our phrases. Right. Aren't there a lot of quotes? You know, you can't teach an old dog new tricks all downhill from there. The birthday card say over the head. I mean the visual imagery of just going down and then you have nothing to look forward to. So I'm excited to talk about this cause you're right, I don't think I've ever interviewed someone or really had this conversation with a fellow clinician. So very valuable and very needed. Yeah. So hopefully any of our listeners, it applies to you because if you're not in a, you know, a later phase of life now you will be. And so you can prepare well by listening today. So we'll, we'll go ahead and start. I just like to ask you, um, why is understanding human development in the later years important?

Speaker 2: (04:14)
Okay, so we touched on a little bit just now, but at the end of the day, it really is because it's an often overlooked subject. I mean, it's forgotten when you think of developing, you think it's natural to think kids. In fact, I was recently speaking to a friend of mine and she was lamenting how at age of 50, you know, that she thought she, she would have been somewhere that she would have known something. It's a, it's kind of a nebulous concept. You don't know what you should know as you adult, but you think you should be somewhere, right as you hit a certain age. For some it's a moveable feast. Some it's 40, some it's 50, some it's 70. You think, why am I not, why don't I know everything about the world, you know? And that's, you know, absolutely not true. She, she thought she would finally have it all together.

Speaker 2: (05:05)
Right. Maybe be as confident as I want to be having this financially or the stability. Almost like you think without application, you're just gonna automatically be a good steward of your time, talent and money just automatically turned 50. You got it altogether right there waiting for you just to take it. And that's absolutely not true. And since that time, I've learned that this thought that once I hit a certain age, I will finally, and you can fill in the blank, you'll finally understand life, the universe and everything. Almost as if we stopped developing as if we stopped growing and changing once the ARP magazine show up at our doors. Right. You know? But the wonderful news is that we are still developing and there are some growth tasks that we need to accomplish if we want to develop well in our older adulthood and not just decline.

Speaker 2: (05:56)
There are actual tasks that we have to do that it, that life is an ongoing forward momentum. Yes. And that there are still things that we need to do and we'll talk about that more. But it really relates to how we see ourselves as a world around us and our relationships. Okay. So let's just go right into it. And now I'm interested, I want to know these things. So what are some of those developmental milestones you think older adults should aim for? Yeah, a lot of my information comes from a Harvard study on aging that describes six adult life tasks that was used to assess development in middle adulthood and beyond. Now these are tasks which a human being needs to complete sequentially in order to progress in their development. Now, the first one, it's talked about a lot in culture, but we really don't think about it in terms of an older adult, but it's identity.

Speaker 2: (06:48)
Okay? So different from a child, a child trying to find their identity, who they are, what they believe separate from their family or their peers and as an individual. But as an older adult, we look towards mastery of our identity and this area, which allows us to maintain ourself respect by letting go of self importance. Because when you're younger, you know you, you get your trophy and it's, you're proud, you're looking for accolade for the most part. But when you're older it's, it becomes, I know who I am and this is important. For the younger generation, allow others to have that success. I think, um, it's allowing ourselves as older adults to enjoy the accomplishments of others without needing to compete as an older adult. You don't need that. You did it right. You're there and you don't need to compete with the younger generation.

Speaker 2: (07:43)
You had that stage of competition and maybe advancing and career in different accomplishments or okay, so you get to celebrate the younger ones doing those things. Not that we all as human beings don't need to feel needed, loved. But at this stage you can look back and be pretty proud of the things. The fact that you've lived to a certain age is accomplishment. Right. You know, so, you know, going off of those things and really being able to reflect on the things that you've done and let somebody else get to that stage as well. Yeah. And maybe if you are still, you know, we do know a lot of people who are still in research or in their careers very late in life. They choose to continue working and they enjoy it. So maybe they continue to accomplish things, but also maybe mentoring the younger generations or you know, really pouring back into them.

Speaker 2: (08:32)
So I hear it's not so singularly focused on just your career, your advancement. Right. Which brings us to our next point. Intimacy, intimacy. You know, as a younger adult going into the middle adult stages, what it really looks like as an older adult is expanding one's sense of self to include another person. Okay. Now that's true. Many people, but younger generations are learning how to do that. A lot of the Times as an older adult, you may have had it and it went away at some point, or you never really learned how to do it. So this is a task that we're looking to, to master too, to understand that our identity is now rooted and grounded. Then we do have that ability to bring people in because they're not going to compromise. Yes. Our sense of self. Okay. It's almost like you think, okay, if I bring this person in, they're going to steal my pie.

Speaker 2: (09:27)
You know, dessert, which is one of my favorite subjects. So we know what they think. I'm okay if I, if I let them in, I lose myself. A lot of the times that's, that happens with the younger person, they push people away because they're afraid. But as an older adult, you don't need to, you, you have your identities set. Yeah. So that you can bring others in and allow your influence almost to kind of reflect upon them and they might be able to gain something from that. I love that they're more solid so they can be around maybe more even people personalities, characteristics that a younger person might set more boundaries, right. To guard their own identity that's still developing and it's still very flexible and moldable. Yeah, so it's, it's a lot of, we're building more relationships as we get older rather than limiting them.

Speaker 2: (10:17)
I love it. And another mastery task as an older adult, which we don't often think about because when you think of older adult, you start thinking, looking towards retirement. Okay. But one of the mastery tasks is career consolidation, which is interesting because it does have to do with work and loving the work you do. Turning a hobby into an actual occupation. Now that seems strange, but when I started really thinking about it, I said, I said to myself, you know, in the garden of Eden at the very beginning, before the fall when we were all just beautiful, what did the Lord do? He gave Adam a job. He told him, you need to name some things. You need to tell some things you need to to watch over. You need to be a steward here, and that is an idea of how working is not something that we ever stopped doing.

Speaker 2: (11:11)
Right. I think it's how we need to kind of shift our perspective about what work means. Yeah. But it is something that is necessary to age. Well, yes. A lot of the times people retire and they think, I'm no longer worth anything because I'm not working. I'm not useful, I'm not useful. And I actually think, you know, you don't have to be working, but you do have to still be maybe accomplishing something to feel just a sense of purpose. Absolutely. That's part of being a human. And that doesn't stop when you retire at 65 or whatever. I think it's about terminology too. It's the idea of work is something to be avoided because it's like we all want vacation from work. Right? Right. But when you think about the fulfillment that you get from a job, well done, yeah. You realize that it is an important component to your development and it's something that is ongoing.

Speaker 2: (12:04)
Yeah. So, yeah, work, it's, it's pretty important. And you do, you hear people who retire and then they start to decline quickly. Exactly. I think that's a common, you know, story a lot of us have heard just that we don't thrive when we're doing nothing. That is absolutely true. Yeah. So another area that we look at is generativity. Um, and this is really about building a community. You use your identity, your intimacy, and if your generativity, if you're building a community, if you're influencing the younger generation, you know, while respecting their autonomy, you know, it's not you trying to put knowledge on them, but accepting that they have their information that you're going to impart information. Uh, giving away of self almost. And you're starting to build that community, that sense of need. Yeah. That you're needed. That helps towards aging well towards longevity. A lot of the older adults, I'm talking septic generic ones octogenarians a lot of older adults who are happy and I know that's a nebulous word, but you know, we're going to put it out there who are happy, have an interest in the people around them, the world around them and not just interest in a negative way, upset that the culture is moving away towards from their values and not preserving their values, but an interest knowing that they have something to give yes to the current culture.

Speaker 2: (13:33)
I can think of these people in my own life who are older and yeah, they're not always complaining about how the younger generation is and they probably could. There's a lots of complaints about probably from their perspective, but yeah, they're kind of, they're interested. Yes. They're even learning and like, oh, that's what you do now, or that's how this goes or you know, and so I think there is, it's like a positive curiosity that, that continued to have that. I like that. A positive curiosity about the world around them and the people around them. Exactly. You know, and I think that actually goes with the great commission. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind. Love your neighbor as yourself. That doesn't, t doesn't put an age on that, but you're out of this. You don't have to worry about it.

Speaker 2: (14:15)
Five, you're done. Yeah, you're off the hook. Yeah, no, no. We all have to do it no matter how old we are. Yeah. So that brings us to the keeper of meaning task. And that is one who speaks for those past cultural achievements, um, to preserve them. So we talked briefly about, you know, an older person who sees the culture changing around them. This does not mean that we forget our past. That is extremely important. Wise person once said, those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it. So we don't want that. Especially if the past was not that great. Yeah. But it, if it was great, we want to repeat it. Yeah. To do that. Yeah. So there has to be that balance. And in this, um, I look to grandparent, grandchildren, relationships. Now, uh, some of our listeners may not have a grandparent, which to me means you find yourself an older adult and snatch onto them.

Speaker 2: (15:12)
Find yourself a grandparent, you know, go to a nursing home, find somebody, you click with grandparents or adopted adopted grandparents. Because the fact is, when I think about what my mom would tell me, what my grandmother would tell me, who do you normally believe that most grandparents, they would tell the kid whatever. And the kid just is like, okay, yeah. And then they would quote it back. I'm like, you've lived forever. And they're little minds and you know everything and you're not always discipline in me. I think that has a lot to do. Yeah. You're the fun one. You're the one who gives me candy. I'm going to believe you. I have a friend, her three year old daughter, she hangs out with her grandma all the time. And so one day she comes home and she is scrubbing her hands like she's a doctor, you know all the way up to her elbow.

Speaker 2: (15:59)
This little three year old. And her mother is like, I'm, what are you doing? Yeah, the doctor. And she's like, well Omar told me that you have to wash, you know, to keep away the germs. Now her mother is telling her about cleanliness and never listened to that. But if Oman washing all the way to my shoulder all the way up to her shoulders, head to toe. So it just kinda tells you, I mean that's a little silly, I'm kind of synopsis, but that just kind of tells you how impactful grandparents or the older generation have on a younger generation what they can have. Absolutely importance of that. And so the last one is integrity. Okay. And that actually comes from the mastery of all the previous five other tasks. And it allows for a focus shift from ourselves to the world we're now giving of ourselves based off of what we complish, what we attained in all these years.

Speaker 2: (16:57)
That's invaluable. That's something you can necessary necessary. And it's something you can't get until you're an older adult, right? Yes. Everybody has experiences they can share. Yeah. But some of these experiences you're not going to get until you're an older adult. It's funny cause I remember this is a little personal, but when I was younger in my career, people look at me and still think I'm 18 I'm not. But I, but I always thought I can't wait till I'm older because then I feel like I'll have the experience, you know, cause you have the schooling, the training, but I can't wait till I have the experience and I knew it's just years of doing something that gives you that kind of clinical insight and gut and perspective. So I can see that it's just so valuable to know, wow, I've done something for 10 2030 years and to really feel comfortable and competent in it. Yes. Yes. That is so fulfilling. Yes. You know, and it's something if you, if you starting to move towards those tasks. Yeah. It's something that you definitely are going to have in your latter years and it's something you have to look forward to. Yeah. And that's really important. Yeah. Well, we are going to take a break right now. This has been an awesome first half. I'm Lindsey here with dawn and we'll be right back with wellspring on the air.

Speaker 1: (18:12)
Wellspring now offers professional Christian counseling at six locations in Dade County. Therapists are now taking clients at two new locations, one at Crossbridge, Miami Springs and Kiva Skein for more information, (786) 573-7010 or wellspring miami.org for more information.

Speaker 2: (18:32)
Welcome back. I'm Lindsay. Stuff in with wellspring on the air. And today I'm here with dawn plumber. If you miss the first half of our show, go back and listen to it on our podcast app. We talked about understanding human development in the later years, why this is important in different milestones that older adults should aim for. So we're going to go ahead and keep this discussion rolling. And Dawn, I'd like to ask you, what are some of the emotional challenges that older adults face as they continue to mature? Oddly enough, it's similar to what younger adults face and once again, dispelling that myth that once you hit a certain age, you grow and you know everything, right? You know a lot and you want to share that but you're still going to develop. Um, so basically some of the things that an older adult faces is stress.

Speaker 2: (19:22)
Stress going to be in everybody's life in some way or fashion. Sure. Which means that our coping skills need to be there to handle that stress. And whether or not our coping skills are adaptive or maladaptive, that is going to influence how we handle our stress and how we progress forward. Okay. A lot of the times, those six tasks, if those six tasks are in place or if you're moving towards them, they're going to actually help you. They're going to be part of your coping skills. Your support group's going to be there, you know? So when you do suffer loss, you're still going to have a support group. When you are dealing with the stress of a family, like say your daughter's kids are not turning out the way everybody wants them, it happens. You know, that stress that comes from that, the concern, it's going to be there because you're working towards their tests.

Speaker 2: (20:14)
Another thing emotionally is that interdependence because you are going to, as you get older, you will lose some of the people that you knew growing up. Yeah. And that's hard. It is. That is really hard. But the interdependence that you gain from mastering these six tests are going to act as a foundation and a support for you in a way that is, it's something unique to that life stage that you start to lose friends and family around your same age, perhaps as you get in the 70s, 80s, nineties yeah. Yeah. And that's a unique challenge to suffer so much loss in a short amount of time. Very traumatic. Absolutely. Absolutely. Another thing is loss of flexibility. Um, physically and mentally. Sometimes your mental flexibility, you start getting into this mode of thinking. That's why a lot of times I use my mom as an example, but she doesn't really like to learn new technology.

Speaker 2: (21:09)
That's the peripherals and I'm saying like television. When we went from C, this'll date me a little bit, but when we went from no VCRs to VCRs, yes. Then from VCRs to DVDs, then from DVDs to blue ray, then streaming. My mom pretty much gave up at the VCR and basically she would just call me when she needed to watch something. But video. Yeah, because she's like, I'm done, but we don't want to stop. We want to continue learning. Even if we think you know, hey, this will never catch on. They will probably all usually. Yeah. So that flexibility of mind and flexibility of body. What are we doing to keep ourselves active? Okay, you got to do it. You got a body in motion, stays in motion. Yes. I don't know. Say you want to keep, you need activities in place with coping with your functioning losses.

Speaker 2: (22:00)
Okay. It's true. I know it even as a younger person, I'm not in my older life stage yet, but if I don't go to the gym for a week, I'm like, wow, I'm so stiff. I don't feel good. You feel it? I had some friends who said, you know, it's all downhill after 35 I'm like, really? They weren't wrong. Yeah. There are some changes that you're going to go through and be ready for it, but you can look forward to it and I think that's what we're talking about today. Yeah, very good. Okay. Well, what are some of the benefits of maturity? Okay. Like we talked about, you're able to review some the past, see those themes and extract meaning from it and then be able to impart it to others. That's like we said, invaluable. Not everybody can do that. You survived many of your stressors.

Speaker 2: (22:46)
Yes. So you made it out walking example to others. Yes, I did it. You can do it too. You nurture the younger generation and people kind of underestimate how, how much fulfillment you get from nurturing somebody else. You Think, oh, I've got to nurture this person. It's work again, that word. But in fact, when you're nurturing somebody, there's an openness that comes. Yeah. And it really fulfills you. I keeps your heart open, you know? And it does. It keeps you very soft. And you know, there's jokes about the old crotchety lady on the lawn with her cane. Get off my lawn. You know? But I think it's true. Abuse, stay connected. Like you talked earlier about intimacy, sharing life with others, being connected to them, pouring into them. It keeps you soft. It keeps you, I think, living out of the value that you have.

Speaker 2: (23:38)
You have so much to share. Just your stories. People just, we could sit and listen to these older people just share about their life. Yeah. It could fill days. Yeah. And now I'm not a medical doctor, but I have, I have read, the brain is pretty much fully developed by age 25 okay. So what happens though is all your synopsis's are now firing at the rate they're supposed to. And what that means for the older adult is your emotional sense ability, your emotional intellectual quotient, if you will. Yeah. Increases. So an older adult actually has an increased capacity for empathy, which is so needed in this world if they accept the challenge. Right. You know, stir it and foster it, you know that that's, that's actually a sign of mastery of these tasks. Yeah. So kind of you're less judgmental as you age because maybe you've experienced a lot and now you can understand more why people make mistakes or make certain decisions because life isn't this clear cut cookie cutter vision that you have when you're younger.

Speaker 2: (24:46)
May Be Right. Yeah. Okay. Very good. Well, any final thoughts for our older adults? Yes. Well years do take their toll. Yeah, they do. But a brain untouched by disease or injury can still perform almost as well as a young person. Wow, okay. I see your surprise. Yeah, that incredible. Untouched by disease. So we're not talking about, you know, somebody who has dementia. That's a conversation for another day because there are some things that a person, our family member with dementia can contribute as well. Yeah. But somebody who is untouched by disease or traumatic brain injury, your brain still works and it can keep up with the younger generation. It just says that you must allow for time. Yeah. Time to get that motor started. Yeah. It time to learn. You know, it may take a little longer. Okay. And maybe a little slower, but it can keep up.

Speaker 2: (25:43)
Yeah. And I think that's something we don't really think about all the time or that we think we're gonna lose it. Okay. I can vouch for that with my own mom cause she's actually in her seventies and she is amazing. I mean she can still do things, figure things out way better than I can. I'm like mom, I joke with her because we're close. I say, you know, you should be getting older and slow and all these things and she has more energy than me. I'm like, can we please go home? I'm exhausted. She's like the energizer bunny. And Yeah, always like, oh, I'm going to, if she visits, going to clean or do whatever, I say, don't just relax. She said, Lindsey, I'm only 70 and I think that's a wonderful, because that's an example of how you can be, I love seeing older adults who are active.

Speaker 2: (26:31)
Yes. I had the privilege of having 80 year old aunts, um, great aunts and these were some of the sharpest ladies too. Up to when they passed away. Yeah. They were some of the sharpest ladies I knew. I have a couple aunts in that same boat and they were continuing to work even into those eighties nineties I couldn't believe it. But you would just never know. Maybe the outside looked older, but inside nothing had changed. Yes. Yeah. Yes. And I guess if we talk about final thoughts for older adults, the Lord really loves older adults. He talks about the wisdom of the ages and how we are as older adults to nurture. First Peter Five one through 11 really speaks to the hope of glory for an older adult to know. Continuing on in our theme of you have something to look forward to. Even when we start, we don't want to talk about it, but we are every, uh, every one of us are moving towards our final mortality.

Speaker 2: (27:29)
Yes. And God says, the God of all grace who called you to his eternal glory in Christ will himself restore, establish, strengthen, and support you after you have suffered a little while to him be dominion forever. Amen. And to me that just says, you know, the Lord knows our bodies are going to decay. We are going to suffer loss as an older adult, but everything's going to be restored when we go to him. And that's something. Hope. Yeah, I love that. Oh, dawn, thank you so much for today. This was so interesting. I hope you caught the whole show. If not, go to our wellspring on the air, on your android or apple phone podcast app. You can listen. Catch the whole show there. Um, thing. Thank you, Lindsey. Well, I'm Lindsey Stephin with wellspring on the air because hearts and minds matter