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We have seen that most people develop secure relationships, reason cognitively, socially, and morally, create families, and find appropriate careers over the course of their lives. However, as people enter their 60s and beyond, the aging process causes faster changes in our physical, cognitive, and social capabilities and needs, and life begins to come to a natural conclusion, resulting in the final life stage, known as late adulthood, which begins in the 60s.
 
Late adulthood is defined as the period between the mid-sixties and death. This is the stage of development that lasts the longest.
 
Erik Erikson, a well-known psychologist, held that personality develops in a predetermined order through eight stages of psychosocial development, from infancy to adulthood. During each stage, the person goes through a psychosocial crisis, which can have a positive or negative impact on their personality development.
According to the theory, at each stage of psychosocial development, people face a crisis that serves as a watershed moment. Resolving the crisis successfully leads to the development of a psychological virtue, which contributes to overall psychological well-being.
 
Failure to complete any stage successfully can result in a decreased ability to progress to future stages that results in a more unhealthy personality and a sense of self.

Ego Integrity vs. Despair

Erik Erikson's stage theory of psychosocial development concludes with the eighth and final stage, ego integrity versus despair. This stage begins around the age of 65 and ends with death. It is during this time that we can reflect on our achievements and develop integrity if we consider ourselves to be living a successful life.
 
At the Integrity versus Despair stage, one of the key conflicts is deciding if one has lived a fulfilling life.
 
What You Should Know?
  • The big question is, "Did I live a meaningful life?"
  • Wisdom is a fundamental virtue.
  • Significant Event(s): Looking back on one's life
  • Individuals who reflect on their lives and regret not achieving their goals will often find themselves feeling bitter and despair.
 
What Is the Difference Between Integrity and Despair?

The ability to look back on one's life with a sense of accomplishment and fulfilment is referred to as integrity. Integrity characteristics include:
  • Acceptance
  • A feeling of wholeness
  • Absence of remorse
  • Feeling at ease
  • A sense of accomplishment
  • Wisdom and acceptance

Despair is defined as reflecting on one's life with feelings of regret, shame, or disappointment. Despair has the following characteristics:
  • Bitterness
  • Regret
  • Worrying about mistakes
  • Feeling as if your life has been squandered
  • Unproductive feelings
  • Depression
  • Hopelessness
 
The initial manifestation of this stage is often provoked by life events such as retiring from work, losing someone close to you or witnessing their passing, being diagnosed with a terminal illness, or experiencing any other change that alters one's role in life.

How to Improve Integrity

This stage of psychosocial development is frequently influenced by events that occurred earlier in life. There are, however, things you can do to help develop a stronger sense of ego integrity as you age.
  • Focus on activities that will help you maintain your emotional wellness as you age, and to ensure you have a strong social support network.
  • Look for meaningful relationships. Relationships with people you care about and who care about you are essential.
  • Rather than dwelling on regrets or wishing you could change the past, concentrate on changing your perspective on those events.
  • Practice gratitude. Focus on the positive aspects of your life rather than the negative.

How to Decrease Despair
 
There are steps you can take to improve your well-being if you are experiencing feelings of despair as you age:
  • Discussing your feelings with friends and family can be beneficial, as can making new connections through community groups or organisations.
  • Think about the memories and events that made you proud and happy. Seek out activities that give you pleasure and joy in the present moment.
  • Look for ways to explore your spirituality, which may help you feel more at ease and at peace.
  • If you continue to undergo feelings of despair, talk to your doctor or mental health professional. You could be suffering from a mental illness such as depression or anxiety. Your doctor can advise you on appropriate treatments.
 
Individuals, according to Erikson's theory, do not always experience integrity or despair. Instead, as they begin to make sense of their lives, most healthy people experience a balance of both.