Theories Developed by Rogers
6.1 Theory of Accelerating Evolution
The Theory of Accelerating Evolution suggests that the only “norm” is accelerating change. Higher frequency field patterns that manifest growing diversity open the door to wider ranges of experiences and behaviors, calling into question the very idea of “norms” as guidelines. Human and environmental field rhythms are speeding up. We experience faster environmental motion now than ever before, in cars and high-speed trains and planes, for example. It is common for people to experience time as rapidly speeding by. People are living longer. Rather than viewing aging as a process of decline or as “running down,” as in an entropic worldview, this theory views aging as a creative process whereby field patterns show increasing diversity in such manifestations as sleeping, waking, and dreaming.
Rogers hypothesized that hyperactive children provide a good example of speeded-up rhythms relative to other children. They would be expected to show indications of faster rhythms, increased motion, and other behaviors indicative of this shift. She expected that relative diversity would manifest in different patterns for individuals within any age cohort, concluding that chronological age is not a valid indicator of change in this system: “[I]n fact, as evolutionary diversity continues to accelerate, the range and variety of differences between individuals also increase; the more diverse field patterns evolve more rapidly than the less diverse ones” (Rogers, 1992, p. 30).
The Theory of Accelerating Evolution provides the basis for reconceptualizing the aging process. Rogers (1970, 1980) used the principle of helicy and the Theory of Accelerating Evolution to put forward the notion that aging was a continuously creative process of growing diversity of field patterning. Therefore, aging is not a process of decline or “running down.” Rather, field patterns become increasingly diverse as we age as older adults need less sleep, are more satisfied with personal relationships, are better able to handle their emotions, better able to cope with stress, have increasing crystallized intelligence, wisdom, and improved problem solving abilities (Whitbourne, 2008). Butcher (2003) expanded on Rogers’ “negentropic” view of aging in outlining key elements for a “unitary model of aging as emerging brilliance” that includes replacing ageist stereotypes with new positive images of aging; and developing policies, lifestyles, and technologies that enhance successful aging and longevity. Within a unitary view of aging, later life becomes a potential for growth, “a life imbued with splendor, meaning, accomplishment, active involvement, growth, adventure, wisdom, experience, compassion, glory, and brilliance . . .” (Butcher, 2003, p. 64).
6.2 Theory of Emergence of Paranormal Phenomena
The Theory of Emergence of Paranormal Phenomena suggests that experiences commonly labeled “paranormal” are actually manifestations of the changing diversity and innovation of field patterning. They are pandimensional forms of awareness, examples of pandimensional reality that manifest visionary, beyond-waking potentials. Meditation, for example, transcends traditionally perceived limitations of time and space, opening the door to new and creative potentials. Therapeutic touch provides another example of such pandimensional awareness. Both participants often share similar experiences during therapeutic touch, such as a visualization sharing common features that evolves spontaneously for both, a shared experience arising within the mutual process both are experiencing, with neither able to lay claim to it as a personal, private experience.
The idea of a pandimensional or nonlinear domain provides a framework for understanding paranormal phenomena. A nonlinear domain unconstrained by space and time, provides an explanation of seemingly inexplicable events and processes. Rogers (1992) even asserted that within the Science of Unitary Human Beings, psychic phenomena become “normal” rather than “paranormal.” Dean Radin, director of the Conscious Research Laboratory at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas, suggests that an understanding of nonlocal connections along with the relationship between awareness and quantum effects provides a framework for understanding paranormal phenomena (Radin, 1997). “Deep interconnectedness” demonstrated by Bell’s Theorem embraces the interconnectedness of everything unbounded by space and time. In addition, the work of Dossey (1993, 1999), Nadeau and Kafatos (1999), Sheldrake (1988), and Talbot (1991) explicate the role of nonlocality in evolution, physics, cosmology, consciousness, paranormal phenomena, healing, and prayer.
Within a nonlinear-nonlocal context, paranormal events are our experience of the deep nonlocal interconnections that bind the universe together. Existence and knowing are locally and nonlocally linked through deep connections of awareness, intentionality, and interpretation. Pandimensionality embraces the infinite nature of the universe in all its dimensions and includes processes of being more aware of naturally occurring changing energypatterns. Pandimensionality also includes intentionally participating in mutual process with a nonlinear-nonlocal potential of creating new energy patterns. Distance healing, the healing power of prayer, therapeutic touch, out of body experiences, phantom pain, precognition, déjà vu, intuition, tacit knowing, mystical experiences, clairvoyance, and telepathic experiences are a few of the energy field manifestations patients and nurses experience that can be better understood as natural events in a pandimensional universe characterized by nonlinear-nonlocal human-environmental field integrality propagated by increased awareness and intentionality.
Todaro-Franceschi (2006) identified the existence of synchronicity experiences in many who were grieving the loss of a spouse, a pioneering effort in delineating a unitary view of death and dying. From the results of her qualitative study she described how such experiences help the bereaved to relate to their deceased loved ones in a new, meaningful way rather than in the traditional view of learning to let go and move on.
6.3 Manifestations of Field Patterning
Rogers’ third theory, Rhythmical Correlates of Change, was changed to “Manifestations of Field Patterning in Unitary Human Beings.” Here Rogers suggested that evolution is an irreducible, nonlinear process characterized by increasing diversity of field patterning. She offered some manifestations of this relative diversity, including the rhythms of motion, time experience, and sleeping-waking, encouraging others to suggest further examples.
Selected Rogerian Theories derived by Rogerian Scholars
In addition to the theories Rogers derived, a number of theories have been developed by Rogerian scholars that are useful in informing Rogerian pattern-based practice.
6.4 Theory of Power as Knowing Participation in Change
Barrett’s (1989) Theory of Power as Knowing Participation in Change was derived directly from Rogers’ postulates and principles, and it interweaves awareness, choices, freedom to act intentionally, and involvement in creating changes. Power is a natural continuous theme in the flow of life experiences and dynamically describes how human beings participate with the environment to actualize their potential. Barrett (1983) pointed out that most theories of power are causal and define power as the ability to influence, prevent, or cause change with dominance, force, and hierarchy. Power, within a Rogerian perspective, is being aware of what one is choosing to do, feeling free to do it, doing it intentionally, and being actively involved in the change process. A person’s ability to participate knowingly in change varies in given situations. Thus, the intensity, frequency, and form in which power manifests vary. Power is neither inherently good nor evil; however, the form in which power manifests may be viewed as either constructive or destructive, depending on one’s value perspective (Barrett, 1989). Barrett (1989) stated that her theory does not value different forms of power, but instead recognizes differences in power manifestations.
The Power as Knowing Participation in Change Tool (PKPCT)is a measure of one’s relative frequency of power. Barrett (1989) suggests that the Power Theory and the PKPCT may be useful in a wide variety of nursing situations. Barrett’s Power Theory is useful with clients who are experiencing hopelessness, suicidal ideation, hypertension and obesity, drug and alcohol dependence, grief and loss, self-esteem issues, adolescent turmoil, career conflicts, marital discord, cultural relocation trauma, or the desire to make a lifestyle change. In fact, all health/illness experiences involve issues concerning knowing participation in change. The nurse invites the client to complete the PKPCT as a means to identify the client’s power pattern. To prevent biased responses, the nurse should refrain from using the word “power.” The power score is determined on each of the four subscales: awareness, choices, freedom to act intentionally, and involvement in creating changes. The scores are documented as part of the client’s pattern profile and shared with the client during voluntary mutual patterning. Scores are considered as a tentative and relative measure of the ever-changing nature of one’s field pattern in relation to power.
Instead of focusing on issues of control, the nurse helps the client identify the changes and the direction of change the client desires to make. Using open-ended questions, the nurse and the client mutually explore choices and options and identify barriers preventing change, strategies, and resources to overcome barriers; the nurse facilitates the client’s active involvement in creating the changes. For example, asking the questions, “What do you want?” “What choices are open to you now?” “How free do you feel to do what you want to do?” and “How will you involve yourself in creating the changes you want?” can enhance the client’s awareness, choice-making, freedom to act intentionally, and his or her involvement in creating change (Barrett, 1998).
A wide range of voluntary mutual patterning strategies may be used to enhance knowing participation in change, including meaningful dialogue, dance/movement/motion, sound, light, color, music, rest/activity, imagery, humor, therapeutic touch, bibliotherapy, journaling, drawing, and nutrition (Barrett, 1998). The PKPCT can be used at intervals to evaluate the client’s relative changes in power.
6.5 Theory of Kaleidoscoping in Life’s Turbulence
Butcher’s (1993) Theory of Kaleidoscoping in Life’s Turbulence was derived from Rogers’ Science of Unitary Human Beings, chaos theory (Briggs & Peat, 1989; Peat, 1991), and Csikszentmihalyi’s (1990) Theory of Flow. It focuses on facilitating well-being and harmony amid turbulent life events. Turbulence is a dissonant commotion in the human/environmental field characterized by chaotic and unpredictable change. Any crisis may be viewed as a turbulent event in the life process. Nurses often work closely with clients who are in a “crisis.” The turbulent life event may be an illness, the uncertainty of a medical diagnosis, marital discord, or loss of a loved one. Turbulent life events are often chaotic in nature, unpredictable, and always transformative.
Kaleidoscoping is a way of engaging in a mutual process with clients who are in the midst of experiencing a turbulent life event by mutually flowing with turbulent manifestations of patterning (Butcher, 1993). Flow is an intense harmonious involvement in the human/environment mutual field process. The term “kaleidoscoping” was used because it evolves directly from Rogers’ writings and conveys the unpredictable continuous flow of patterns, sometimes turbulent, that one experiences when looking through a kaleidoscope. Rogers (1970) explained that the “organization of the living system is maintained amidst kaleidoscopic alterations in the patterning of system” (p. 62).
The Theory of Kaleidoscoping in Turbulent Life Events is used in conjunction with the pattern manifestation knowing and appreciation and voluntary mutual patterning processes. In addition to engaging in the processes already described in pattern manifestation knowing and appreciation, the nurse identifies manifestations of patterning and mutually explores the meaning of the turbulent situation with the client. A pattern profile describing the essence of the client’s experiences, perceptions, and expressions related to the turbulent life event is constructed and shared with the client.
In the theory of kaleidoscoping, voluntary mutual patterning also incorporates the processes of transforming turbulent events by cultivating purpose, forging resolve, and recovering harmony (Butcher, 1993). Cultivating purpose involves assisting clients in identifying goals and developing an action system. The action system is comprised of patterning strategies designed to promote harmony amid adversity and facilitate the actualization of the potential for well-being.
In moments of turbulence, clients may want to increase their awareness of the complexity of the situation. Creative suspension is a technique that may be used to facilitate comprehension of the situation’s complexity (Peat, 1991). Guided imagery is a useful strategy for facilitating creative suspension because it potentially enhances the client’s ability to enter a timeless suspension directed toward visualizing the whole situation and facilitating the creation of new strategies and solutions. Forging resolve is assisting the clients in becoming involved and immersed in their action system. Because chaotic and turbulent systems are infinitely sensitive, actions are “gentle” or subtle in nature and are distributed over the entire system involved in the change process. Entering chaotic systems with a “big splash” or trying to force a change in a particular direction will likely lead to increased turbulence (Butcher, 1993).
Forging resolve involves incorporating flow experiences into the change process. Flow experiences promote harmonious human/environmental field patterns. There are a wide range of flow experiences that can be incorporated into the daily activities: art, music, exercise, reading, gardening, meditation, dancing, sports, sailing, swimming, carpentry, sewing, yoga, or any activity that is a source of enjoyment, concentration, and deep involvement. The incorporating of flow experiences into daily patterns potentiates the recovering of harmony. Recovering harmony is achieving a sense of courage, balance, calm, and resilience amid turbulent and threatening life events. The art of kaleidoscoping with turbulence is a mutual creative expression of beauty and grace and is a way of enhancing perseverance through difficult times.
6.6 Theory of Aging as Emerging Brilliance
Every 50 seconds, another baby boomer celebrates their 50th birthday. Baby boomers were born between 1947 and 1964, and this year the first wave of 80 million baby boomers reached their late fifties. At the same time great numbers of us are entering “later life,” life expectancy is increasing unprecedented heights. In 1900, a twenty year old had only a 52 percent chance of surviving to age 65. At 65, an individual who survived could expect to live only another 11.7 years. In the year 2000, 83 percent of 20 year-olds can expect to survive 65 years. Furthermore, today those reaching 65 can expect to live an additional 17.5 years. The remaining life expectancy after 65 could even reach 24 years by the end of the 21st century (The Institute for Research on Women & Gender, 2002).
While an entropic image of aging continues to be the prevailing understanding of the aging process, research on the aging process suggests otherwise. With a coming “age wave” as aging baby boomers will redefine the meaning of later life just as they transformed images of middle age. The new emerging view of aging validates Rogers’ original notion of aging as a negentropic process of increasing diversity, creativity, and innovation.
Aging as a Shipwreck
Throughout most of history and across many cultures, “elders” have been revered for their wisdom, accomplishments, and ability to endure (Shahar, 2003). However, today, Western culture seems blind to the beauty, brilliance, and significance of later life. In contemporary Western society, youth is worshiped, billions are spent in the effort to deny aging, and challenges abound for elders who are in or trying to reenter the workforce (Shahar, 2003). Ageism, like other stereotypes and forms of discrimination, has no basis in fact. Biases against aging are so deeply ingrained in our culture that negative attitudes toward the elderly at best unintentionally creep into conversations, writings, and entertainment and at worse take the form of deliberate discrimination reinforced by public policy, institutions, and the media. There remain abundant examples in popular culture such as birthday cards, TV programs, advertising, and entertainment that perpetuate false ideas about the elderly. Colloquialisms as “geezer,” “old goat,” “old maid,” “old fogies,” “old bag,” and “dirty old man” are pervasive in everyday speech. Common euphemisms such as “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” “there is no fool like an old fool,” “age is a sickness from which everyone must die,” “age is a troublesome guest” are a few examples that serve to perpetuate negative stereotypes of older persons. Deeply embedded within ageism is the idea that aging is an entropic progressive process of decline, a joyless winding down, replete with illness, disability, impotency, uselessness and mental decline. Just as Chateaubriand declared “Old age is a shipwreck” (Booth, 1992, p. 48.), today aging is predominately viewed as inevitable decline, deterioration, and decay (Friedan, 1993). Ageism fosters stereotypes that discourage older adults from participating actively in their change process, work world, social and political arenas, and cultural pursuits. Chopra (1989) points out that the decline of vigor in later life is largely a result of people expecting to decline. Cultural stereotypes of ageism serve to accelerate the body’s biological aging processes. Schachter-Shalomi (1995) notes: “Aging itself isn’t the problem. It’s the images that we hold about it, our cultural expectation, that cause our problems. To have a more positive old age, we must change our aging paradigm (p. 14).
Rogers’ Negentropic View of Aging
As early as 1970, Rogers began to question the idea that aging was an entropic process. In Chapter 15, she stated “life’s negentropic qualities portend innovation and growing complexity” (Rogers, 1970, p. 114) and raised a number of question such as “do human field boundaries take on increased definitiveness in the process of growth?” (p. 113), “is the speed with which time is perceived to be passing an index of the speed with which the aging process is occurring?” (p. 115), and “are there patterns pf variability in sleep-wake rhythms that correlate with . . . the aging process, with developmental patterns?”(p. 118). As Rogers refined the principle of helicy and the Theory of Accelerating Evolution, her description of the aging process took on greater clarity. In Rogers’ 1980 publication, she put forward the notion that aging was “a continuously creative process directed toward growing diversity of field pattern and organization. It is not a running down” (Rogers, 1980, p. 336). In subsequent publications, Rogers (1992) continued to assert “aging of the unitary human field is not a running down. Rather, field pattern become increasingly diverse as older people need less sleep” and that “a non-linear domain points up the invalidity of chronological age as a basis for differentiating change” (p. 32).
Despite Rogers’ revolutionary ideas, there have been very little published nursing literature extending or verifying her ideas about the nature of the aging process. Katch (1983) found beginning support for Rogers’ negentropic view of in the literature in citing the works of Neugarten, Strumpf, and Ebersole & Hess. Neugarten (1979) explained how with the passage of time life becomes more enriched and complex. Strumpf (1978) argued data supported a negentropic view of aging rather than progressive decline. Ebersole & Hess (1981) asserted that aging was a time of unlimited growth potential. Cowling (1990) illustrated how pattern rather than chronological age is a more appropriate marker for human development. Surprisingly, there is a dearth of recent writing by Rogerian scholars that explores, advances, sheds new light, provides new insight, or renews Rogers’ original ideas about the aging process.
The idea of unitary aging encompasses both the notions of negentropy and accelerating evolution. Although Dr. Rogers wrote her views on aging in the 1970’s and 1980’s, recent research has provided support for her revolutionary views on aging. Support for the idea of accelerating evolution abounds. James Gleick’s (1999) book “Faster: The Acceleration of Just About Everything” provides a comprehensive overview of the ever acceleration of human-environmental rhythms from faster means of travel, ever faster computers, accelerating knowledge development, and faster forms of communication such as email and “sound bits.” Instant coffee, instant meals, drive thorough, prefab construction, take-out, multitasking, and channel surfing are just a few examples of the accelerating evolution. Furthermore, Gleick (1999), like Rogers, states “we feel the rush of time more as we grow older (p. 279). In “The White Hole in Time: Our Future Evolution and the Meaning of Now” Russell (1992) declares “the pace of life is speeding up” and that “acceleration syndrome has become an intimate part of our lives (p. 13). “We are learning faster, growing faster, moving faster and changing faster (Russell, 1992, 45). The faster the world changes, the more we need to let go of cozy notions of what we may think the future will be like. Russell (1992) explains how accelerating change brings about increasing novelty and newness. “Creativity breeds creativity” (Russell, 1992, p. 19). Because of acceleration evolutions, human development, perceptions, attitudes, thinking, and awareness will be changing faster and faster. Increasing longevity of the human life span is yet another manifestation of accelerating evolution.
The single most important fact about health and well-being of the population age 50 and older is that people are living longer. For much of human history, the average life expectancy at birth was less than 30 years. By 1900, in the United States, the average had been pushed up to 48 years. In the 20th century, nearly 30 more years were added to life expectancy, an unprecedented extension in the history of human kind. More years of life expectancy were added in the last century than from all the other increases across all prior millennia combined (Lee, 1997). During the past decade, gene research suggests that human life can be extended even further. A single-gene mutation was found in mice extending their lifespans by about 30% and also increasing their resistance to toxic chemicals (Migliaccio, et al. 1999).
“The field of ageing research has been completely transformed in the past decade.…When single genes are changed, animals that should be old stay young. In humans, these mutants would be analogous to a ninety year old who looks and feels forty-five. On this basis we begin to think of ageing . . . can be cured, or at least postponed.…The field of ageing is beginning to explode, because so many are so excited about the prospect of searching for—and finding—the causes of ageing, and maybe even the fountain of youth itself” (Guarente & Kenyon, 2000).
However, it is important to note that biases about race, class, and gender have affected our views of elderly people and longevity must be overcome for the benefits of longevity to be meaningful. The length of life matters when its duration makes a difference to the quality and value of our lives. As the age wave crests, we need to reflect questions about the purpose and meaning of our extended longevity. A unitary view of aging requires that health care professionals and policy makers place new emphasis on promoting and ensuring that all persons have the maximum potential for a quality and meaningful later life. Extended longevity calls for the development a new awareness about the fulfillment of the human potential in later life.
Enhancing the Aging Process
The rising wave of aging boomers is already shattering conventional notions of what it means to grow older. Ken Dychtwald, the author of Age Wave: How the Most Important Trend to Our Time Will Change your Future and Age Power: How the 21st Century Will be Ruled by the Old predicts that as baby boomers age they will unhinge the obsolete marker of 65 age “old age” and the onset of entitlements. Instead, people will retire when they are ready and can afford to. Older people will seek meaningful employment into their 70’s and 80’s. Age-enhancing technologies including macro and micronutrients designed to delay aging, promote energy, relaxation, sexuality, mental alertness, endurance, recuperation, and wellness will be in demand. Customized youth extending hormones, brain enhancement herbs, vitamins, drugs, age-enhancing spa, sensory devises designed to improve vision and hearing, clothes that sense and adjust temperature differences in different body zones are just some of the technologies on the horizon for the aging population. Lifelong learning centers, such as Elderhostel, will be increasing demand. Homes will be re-engineered so that they are ergonomically appropriate for older bodies. There will be a tremendous need to health care professionals with specialized knowledge of the health and illness concerns of older adults. Financial services and the travel/leisure industry will need to be re-vamped in order to meet the needs of active and productive older adults.
Most significantly, the elder boomers are placing increasing emphasis on the research the shatters the myth of entropic aging. Rogers’ negentropic vision of aging calls forth positive proverbs of aging the extol the wisdom of age such as: “age before beauty”, “age deserves honor,” “with old men take counsel,” “there is wisdom with age,” “and it is good to grow old in a place where age is honored.” A negentropic and optimistic view of aging requires new ways of thinking about aging such as viewing aging as living, aging as education, aging as art, aging as a peak experience, aging as a spiritual journey, aging as adventure, or aging a emerging brilliance.
Not only are older people living longer, but in many cases, living healthier too. In fact, the overall occurrence of disability among the aged is dropping (Singer, & Manton, 1998). Contrary to the entropic view of aging that older persons have more illness, most elders (65+) are healthy (78%) and engage in normal activities. For example, 30% of 50 to 64 year olds have no chronic condition, disability, or functional limitation and in a 1999 survey, about 35% of people age 75-84 state that they are in “excellent” or “very good” health (AARP. 2002). While the elderly become more vulnerable to physical ailments in later years, they also become more resilient psychologically (Gatz, Kasl-Godley, & Karel, 1996). Recent evidence suggests that the reduction in disability rates continue to decline at an even steeper rate from 1994-1999 (Manton & Gu, 2001). Moreover, contrary to public perception, 60 percent of people over 80 live independently in the community (Crimmins, Reynolds, & Saito, 1999). In 1999, only 4.7% of persons in later life live in nursing homes, a decline from 5.3% in 1985. Compared with other age groups 50 and older, exercise, and gardening in particular, has increased for the most people age 75 and older (AARP, 2002). A majority of persons in later life are at least as satisfied with their lives as younger persons. Added years often brings about deeper emotional satisfaction (Carstensen, Isaacowitz, & Charles, 1999). As persons grow older, they also tend to become more satisfied with personal relationships, learn to control their emotions more successfully, and increase available stores of useful memory. “On average, older persons are in better physical and mental health and with more freedom from pain than ever before” (The Institute for Research on Women & Gender, 2002, p. 3).
Supporting Cowling’s (1990) notion that chronological age has little meaning within a unitary perspective, the “Aging in the 21st Century Consensus Report (The Institute for research on Women & Gender, 2002) states: Chronological age, the, will tell us less and less about the circumstances, needs, or chances for successful aging of an individual. Over life course, varied interests, opportunities, and other circumstances can result in even greater variability in health, cognition, living arrangements and financial status . . . . Variability in the course of aging and the onset of diseases, then, makes for a highly diversified cohorts of older people the same age (p. 5).
Another major manifestation for a negentropic view of aging is the research demonstrating, contrary to popular myth, that most elders retain their normal mental abilities, including the ability to learn and remember. While it is true that the speed of cognitive functioning is slowed by aging, thinking more slowly should not be equated with thinking poorly. The ability to solve problems of everyday life (what some refer to as wisdom) remains as sharp in the very old as in the middle aged (Bates & Staudinger, 2000). In one major longitudinal study, more than 50% of the people followed from 60-80 years showed no deterioration in cognitive abilities, and 8% demonstrated measurable gains in performance on tests designed to measure thinking prowess (Schaie, 1990).
It is important to assure that the efforts to promote so called “positive aspects of aging” will not be disguised efforts to restore youth, but rather be attempts to enhance and appreciate growing old as fundamental to human development. Today there are more than 100,000 age-enhancing research projects underway in numerous disciplines in all corners of the world. As the boomers age, their lifelong obsession with youth will be a major driving force toward the development of new technologies. Dychtwald (1999) anticipates that by the year 2020 more than 90 percent of surviving boomer elders will have their life expectancy impacted by emerging life enhancing technologies such as “super-nutrition, gene therapy, bionics, and organ cloning. To meet the needs of tomorrow’s elders, below is a list of just a few of the new markets Dychtwald (1999) describes that will emerge:
- A new science of biomarkers using genomics that become key indicators of an individual’s health, immunologic fortitude, mental vitality, and potential for longevity;
- Nutraceuticals including age-enhancing appetizing drinks, meals, snacks, and supplements engineered with macro- and micronutrients that promote energy, relaxation, sexuality, mental alertness, endurance, recuperation, wellness, and other desired conditions;
- Customized youth-extending hormone therapeutics that will slow down the aging process;
- Mind enhancement herbs, vitamins, drug, acupuncture, visual stimulation, software downloads, and mind exercises that help prevent dementia, better memory, and stimulate higher intelligence;
- Age-enhancing spas that offer intensive revitalization programs, ranging from stress reduction, toxin purging, and metabolic adjustments to muscle toning and nervous system tune-ups;
- Elderhostel-style life-long learning programs at colleges, universities, churches, and community centers on cable TV and the Internet that include both vocational retraining for older adults and avocational instruction on the arts, music, cooking, public speaking, etc.;
- Mature employment and career transition coordinators who would assist maturing adults in career and life style transitions by navigating through a network of job opportunities with minimum hassle;
- Audiovideography production services that create documentary-like video portraits for ordinary individuals telling the story of their long lives and capturing their views, philosophies, and lifestyles.
A negentropic view of aging calls forth new images and new ways to participant in the aging process. Two examples that re-envision the aging process are croning and sage-ing. Croning is the process of becoming active wise women (Walker, 1985)). Croning can begin at any age, but is particularly relevant for women 45 and over. Crone is a term used to describe an ancient archetype, an aspect of the triple goddess (maiden, mother, crone), and the third phase of a women’s life (Walker, 1985)). Women who calls themselves a crone are willing to acknowledge their age, wisdom, and power. Through conscious self-definition, a crone helps reverse hundreds of years of ageism, oppression, and degradation. Crones activate their potential as wisdom carriers and guardians of the future by learning the ancient heritage of crones, honoring the helical seasons of the life cycle, and respecting the integrality of human being with the universe. For nearly 30,000 years, older women were strong, powerful sources of wisdom and were honored and respected in their communities. Crones apply their wisdom to intentionally bring about change that enhances the lives of women while leaving a legacy for future generations (Walker, 1985). Crones embrace the healing power of women and work to harvest the wisdom from their life experiences to bring about a compassionate world and empower women to dismantle ageist, racist, classist, heterosexist, and other hierarchical structures that create imaginary boundaries that falsely separate people from each other.
Schachter-Shalomi & Miller (1995) re-envisioned aging in a way that is both consistent with and expands the understanding and implications of Rogers’ unitary view of aging. They propose an alternative to viewing aging as inevitable diminishment, disengagement, waning vigor, lowered self-esteem, and social uselessness to instead view aging as a late-life developmental process of sage-ing. Sage-ing is a process that helps “transform the downward arc of aging into the upward arc of expanded consciousness that crowns an elder’s life with meaning and purpose (Schachter-Shalomi & Miller, 1995, p. 7-8). Sage-ing is further described as a process that enables older people to become physically vital, spiritually radiant and socially responsible and brings about more adventure, passion, mystery and meaning into an elder’s life. Sages can use life review and journaling to help them look at and appreciate their lives, find meaning, gain self-understanding, and share with others the wisdom gained through years of life experience (Butcher & Buckwalter, 2002; Schachter-Shalomi & Miller, 1995). Forgiveness work can be used to heal relationships and let go of grudges. Elderhood is viewed as a time when elders work as mentors to share their wisdom and transmit a legacy to future generations. Elders share their wisdom to help heal families, communities, and the planet as a means to create a more peaceful, compassionate, and harmonious global community. Later life is a time for “harvesting” the fruits of one’s lifetime experience. When we “harvest, we consciously recognize and celebrate the contributions we have made in our career and family life (Schachter-Shalomi & Miller, 1995, p. 53). Harvesting is a time of appreciating the friendships we have nurtured, the young people we have mentored, the wider involves on behalf of the community we have given to society and the planet. Embracing sage-ing as a process expands the artificial boundaries of aging toward new horizons of unlimited potential.
The Rise of Unitary Aging
We see vibrant examples of a new style of aging all around us. Former U.S. Senator Robert Dole extolling the benefits of Viagra and Senator John Glenn, who at the age of 77 returned to outer space. Alan Greenspan, at the age of 76, continues to over see the nations economy. Well into their 60s and 70s, Sean Connery, Paul Newman, and Jack Nicholson continue to find meaningful roles in major motion pictures and are considered “sex symbols.” Dozens of rock bands from the 1960’s and 1970’s, many whose members are in their 50’s and 60’s, such as the Rolling Stones and Grateful Dead, continue to perform and record new music to sold out concert arenas.
Another example of the possibilities of vitality in later life is the work of Former President Jimmy Carter and his wife. Now the author of 13 books, including The Virtues of Aging, as the founder of the Carter Center, he travels the world working to impact public policy, attempts to facilitate democracy, protect human rights, and prevent disease. He and his wife regularly volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, a nonprofit organization that helps needy people in the United States and in other countries renovate and build homes for themselves. In 1991, he launched The Atlanta Project (TAP), a community-wide effort to solve social problems associated with poverty. At age 80, his many activities promoting peace and human betterment worldwide led to the former President being awarded the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize. Carter (1998) states that he and Rosalynn are “almost as active now as we have ever been, writing, teaching, caring for our farmland and personal finances, serving the Carter Center, with its multiple projects all around the world” (p. 76).
Martha E. Rogers is an exemplar of the potential vibrancy of aging. Martha Rogers lived her theory of aging. After her retirement, she maintained an office at New York University and continued to teach, develop her theory and mentor a generation of future nursing leaders, faculty, and students. She published more that 30 articles after her 65th birthday and presented at more than 100 conferences around the world, disseminating her views on nursing and the Science of Unitary Human Beings. In fact, Rogers developed most of the advances of the Science of Unitary Human Beings after her retirement from New York University. Rogers’ life and her work serve as a catalyst for envisioning elders as agents of evolution and innovation.
As the possibility of unitary aging takes root, an extraordinary future awaits us in later life. Later life no longer will be feared as a time of dispiritedness (Butcher, 1996) but as an opportunity for growth and service to humanity. To all possible crones and sages, a fulfilling life imbued with meaning, accomplishment, active involvement, growth, adventure, wisdom, experience, compassion and brilliance awaits.
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