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The ninth stage in the cycle of life – reflections on E. H. Erikson's theory


In the present paper, Erik H. Erikson's theory of psycho-social development is analysed, including a new, ninth stage proposed by his wife, Joan M. Erikson. However, a new understanding of the ninth stage is proposed, in which integrity versus despair is still the crisis of the last stage of life regardless of the addition of the ninth stage. The crisis of stage eight takes place on the continuum between involvement versus resignation. The term ‘involvement’ is understood as the choice of one's own way of life in the world, in view of personal development oriented towards the realisation of universal values, in accordance with the ethical dimension of social ethos, and with a sense of acceptance of the changes that are the result of the human ageing process. ‘Resignation’, in turn, is understood as the second pole dynamising the conflict of stage eight, which manifests itself in the fact that no new activities are undertaken or old ones continued by an individual, out of the conviction that it is senseless to undertake any activities for his or her own development. There is, however, strength that can be engendered by the struggle of older people between involvement and resignation, namely courage. In the acquisition of courage, older people should be supported by geragogy of courage. Society needs the courage of older people and their involvement in the ethical preservation of the world.

Corresponding author
Address for correspondence: Dr Beata E. Bugajska, Department of Humanities, Institute of Pedagogy, University of Szczecin, ul. Ogińskiego 16/17, 71-431 Szczecin, Poland E-mail:
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Ageing & Society
  • ISSN: 0144-686X
  • EISSN: 1469-1779
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