(adapted from my new book, If Only You’d Known; due for release in early 2019 by Emerson & Church)
According to David Solie, a psychologist specializing in geriatric medicine, elderly people are on “a journey” unrecognized by most others, including their children and professional caregivers.
Unrecognized is the part that breaks my heart. “Many of us look at members of our parents’ generation and see a diminished version of the vibrant people we once knew,” he writes in his book, How to Say It to Seniors. “Surely they aren’t developing anymore, because we can see them declining right before our eyes.”
But that’s not true.
They are developing … just NOT in the direction we expected. “Seniors” work their way daily through what Solie calls “their end-of-life tasks.”
These tasks include “searching for a legacy.” Solie also calls it “life review.” It is essential and involuntary. “Every day, every hour, whether they mention it or not, the seventy-plus age group is reviewing their lives.”
I bring this up because it’s a stage of life unsuspected … until you get there.
Acts of charity help define us as we age. They help define us to ourselves.
Acts of kindness say, “This is who I am, in part. On my best days, this is what I do for others. This is how I’ve tried to help. Much of life is selfish; it has to be, doesn’t it? for survival and comfort. But this is me at my LEAST selfish.”
The Third Act
London-based researcher and legacy expert Richard Radcliffe knows a lot about donors. He’s quizzed more than 25,000 them in focus groups, digging into why they give; he’s been at it for decades.
In 2018, Richard made this frank observation about his own aging process:
But just before Christmas, Radcliffe discovered a new depth of will power.
Intrigued now, Radcliffe wanted to know how the Three Acts of life apply to donors.
The Second Act, Radcliffe discovered:
The Third Act is when we reach our “generosity peak.”
 How to Say It to Seniors: Closing the Communication Gap with Our Elders, David Solie, 2004, Prentice Hall Press; recommended to me by Sophie Penney
- Tom Ahern