An elderly man teaching his grandson how to play chess. (Photo courtesy of

by Christine Urio


On Thurs. Nov. 20, Mount Saint Mary College (MSMC) hosted the iROC presentation, “Elderhood: Where Society and the Economy are Headed,” presented by Kate Lindemann, Ph.D., and Professor Emerita of Philosophy.

Elderhood is the third and most prestigious stage of human development. This concept was once central in America, but has been lost due to the changes that occurred in the 20th century.

In the parts of the world where people live the longest, the elderly have a place within the community to live and to work. In Japan, outside of the temple there are tea houses and stores for grandparents to buy things for their grandchildren.

Men used to wear white powdered wigs because it made them appear older and people respected them; however, after the Civil War and the rise of the assembly line, Americans began to view the ending of adulthood as a decline into nothingness.

Elderhood is broken into three stages: the late 50s, age 75, and the late 80s.

According to Lindemann, in the first stage, people like to travel, learn, and explore things they previously did not have to the time to.

“During this stage, people go back to school and do things adulthood didn’t allow them to—they go back to college or join the Peace Corps, and develop parts of themselves they haven’t yet,” she said.

In the second stage, people begin to think back and review their lives, realizing they are a compilation of all their experiences, and in the third stage, the elderly glide by and have people “let them be who they are.”

Many elderly live alone and it is difficult for them to socialize.

“There was an instance when an elderly man got thrown out of McDonalds because he had been there too long and all he wanted to do was talk,” said Lindemann.

Due to occurrences like this, she suggests that we open places where the elderly can sit, talk, and meet friends.

“Touch is so important to people,” she said.  “Shaking an elderly person’s hand may be the only form of touch they have had the entire week.”

Some suggestions she had included elderly cruises which provide a limited space to meet new people, as well as letting them sit in on a college class for free if space is available.

With technology, it would be ideal to set up Skype session so those who cannot drive or get out at night can still see lectures and plays.

Many cultures value their elders and allow them to mentor the young.  Perhaps it is time to reevaluate how we view our elders and incorporate them back into our culture so they can feel worthy again.