The Wisdom of Middle Age

At the turning point of maturity, one is in a position to change one's roles so as to make a satisfying life for the next 25 or 30 years. This requires a kind of wisdom which consists of self-analysis and self-development along several lines. *

Valuing wisdom versus valuating physical powers

Decrease in physical vigor and attractiveness must result in feelings of failure and inadequacy unless one learns to accept this as a natural consequence of growing older, and learns to give a higher value to the foresight and judgment that arise from the experience of living. The principal means of coping with life shifts from the use of physical energy to the use of wisdom. By employing this shift, one can actually accomplish more than younger people, for one can now concentrate on things that are really important.

Emotional expansion versus emotional constriction

Middle age is the period when, for most people, parents die, children leave home, and the circle of friends and relatives of similar age begins to be broken by death. Also, this is the period when sexual activity begins to drop off for the male. All this can mean an impoverishment of emotional life-fewer friends and fewer family members to love and enjoy. But the successful person learns to reinvest his emotions in new friends and other pursuits. When the primary bonds to parents and children are broken by death and departure, there is either emotional constriction or the forming of new emotional bonds. While it may be true that some people are so deeply bound to their parents that they never completely recover from their deaths and thus doom themselves to a later life of emotional constriction, this hardly seems true of many middle-aged people today.

There is certainly a possibility of forming new friendships and investing emotional capital in new pursuits, for a person at this age generally has a wide circle of acquaintances and has the freedom and the time and financial means to do new things.

Mental flexibility versus mental rigidity

By middle age one achieves a relatively stable and publicly known set of attitudes on a variety of public and private matters, which automatically govern one's behavior and give it a fixed and rigid quality. Since, by this time, one has usually achieved a degree of worldly success, there is a temptation to coast along on this success, making no effort to examine new circumstances for possible new answers. In other words, one tends to become mentally rigid.

Yet the changing circumstances of our society call for a degree of open-mindedness and flexibility, both on public and private issues.

Expansion of interests beyond the work role

The work role is the principal source of satisfaction and feeling of worth for men and many women in our society. Some women adopt the work role after 50 as a substitute for the mother role. But the work role generally lasts only to age 65 or 70 at the most, and its rewards fall off after the age of 60 for most people. Consequently it is important in middle age to expand one's interests beyond the work role so as to get out of other activities satisfactions which formerly came largely through work. This may be done through the development of leisure activities, or through putting more investment into clubs, church, civic life, home-making, friendships, or some form of creative expression.

The main problem is that of finding sources of self-respect outside of the work role. Americans are so thoroughly work-oriented that it is difficult for some of them to achieve self-respect through competence in any other area of life. A man of 64 said: "I have asked our pastor, when he prays; will he pray that St. Peter will give me a good job when I die. That's all I want, a good job in heaven." Somehow one must find some other definition of heaven than that of possessing a "good job." Otherwise one is not likely to enjoy his last years on earth.

Body transcendence versus body preoccupation

The lessening of physical vigor and attractiveness that accompanies middle age comes as a blow to most people, because they have invested a great deal of emotional capital in their physical appearance and physical well-being. This blow may be made more devastating by some chronic disease which causes pain or limits activity. It is only sensible that people should maintain their health and physical attractiveness by getting medical advice, by watching their diets, by getting exercise, and by dressing carefully. This much preoccupation with the body is desirable in middle age. But along with it should go a new definition of happiness and comfort, in terms of satisfying human relationships and creative mental activities which will survive the physical decline of the body.

The Turning Point of Maturity

Complicating the changing roles of middle age is the acute awareness that one is growing older--an awareness that comes to most people within a few years of fifty, either before or after. This awareness is marked by three things:

Physical changes that are uncomfortable

These changes are dramatized for women by the menopause, but they are present for both sexes in other forms. Men and women acquire the "middleaged-spread" and put on fat around the waist. The eye lens loses elasticity, and people have to wear reading glasses or bifocals. Unusual exertion, such as running, playing tennis, or mountain climbing, may result in sprained ankles, torn ligaments, and physical exhaustion. Men who have been physically active and even athletic suddenly find that their adolescent sons can outdo them. Men experience a decrease of sexual drive.

Recognition that one has reached the top of one's career

After years of promotion, increases in salary, and growth in status and power, a person realizes that he has reached a plateau. There will be no further rise, and eventually he must go downhill.

Realization that the future is not of unlimited duration

There comes a time in every person's life when he realizes that he does not have a limitless amount of time ahead of him. Before this time, he can make plans and take on responsibilities without asking himself how many of these things he can accomplish in his lifetime. After this point, he realizes that there will not be time enough in his life to do all the things he would like to do. Therefore he must assign some priorities, decline some opportunities, and parcel out his remaining years so as to get the most important things done.

All three of these things may come on gradually for some people, while they come sharply for others. Few people think much about them before the age of 50. During the period from 50 to 55, however, most people come to terms with all three things and alter their outlook on life accordingly.

This might be called the turning point of maturity. Maturity might be defined as recognition that a person has reached the peak of his career, passed his physical prime, and has only a limited time left to do all the things he would like to do.

Changing Social Roles with Middle Age

A good way to look at the changes that come with middle age is to think of life as consisting of a set of social roles and to see how these roles change in importance and in their claim on the time of a man or woman. Life for a middle-aged person involves meeting one's self-expectations and the expectations of other people in the following roles:

The Parental Role. As children grow up and establish themselves in jobs and homes of their own, the parental role becomes less demanding. The successful parent has set his children free and become more free himself in the process. As for grandchildren, the grandparents can usually enjoy them without feeling responsible for them.

The Home-Maker Role. With children grown and out of the home, there is often a chance to move to a less pretentious dwelling, usually smaller, more modern, and easier to keep up. Leisure time can be used in gardening and fixing up the interior; and people may take particular pride in the physical condition of their homes.

The Role of Spouse. Husband and wife are likely to spend more time together. Not only do their children need them less as parents, but, as spouses, they may need each other more. They may feel the need of greater mutual emotional support.

The Worker Role. As a man (or woman) reaches the peak of his career, the worker role changes its significance. He may relax and take his work more easily; or he may do just the opposite--strive to better himself in a hopeless struggle against his own aging. A good many women in middle age take up the worker role again, finding that they have time on their hands.

The Association Member. A variety of changes may take place in one's participation in clubs, churches, labor unions, fraternal or professional organizations. One may drop out of certain organizations, such as the Parent-Teacher Association, and one may join some social club for which he finds both time and money. One may take leadership in clubs, or one may give up leadership. About all that can be said with certainty is that this period of life gives a person a chance to take stock of his associational activities and to change them if he wants to do so.

The Citizen Role. Plato thought that a person should reach the prime of citizenship around the age of 50. By this age his youthful impetuosity would be replaced by the wisdom of experience, and he would act in the best interests of society. Some people today do develop into the best of citizens in their later adult years, combining wisdom with greater freedom from other demands on their time, to fill the role of citizen in a really distinguished way.

The Friend Role. Friendships are likely to become somewhat more important at this time, largely because there is a gain in leisure time, and perhaps there is more of an investment of interest in people outside the family as involvement with one's children decreases.

The Role of User of Leisure Time. This is potentially one of greatly increased importance since there is usually more leisure time available, free from the demands of one's family, and because there is promise of even more leisure in the future. Some people deliberately cultivate new leisure activities, or reactivate old ones. Other people drop into a rut with a few time-killers, while they cease doing other things for which they no longer have physical energy or motivation, such as dancing, athletics, or keeping up with a social club. Although the happy use of leisure should be a most important gain of middle age, some people cannot find satisfaction in their leisure, because they cannot give leisure the same validity that they give to paid employment, housework, or care of children.

Thus we see that the roles which make up life are apt to change a great deal at about the age of 50. But they may change for the better or for the worse.

Middle Age - the New Prime of Life?

When is the prime of life? This is a personal question which different people answer differently. Still, there is a general agreement among people in America today that the prime of life is somewhere between 40 and 60. Businessmen are likely to place their prime between 40 and 50 and to say that a man gets his top job by about 45. Professional men may place their prime at 50 or even 55, while manual workers regard the prime of life as between 30 and 40. Women vary in their notions about the prime of life more than men do, some women thinking of their thirties as their prime, when their children were young, while others place the prime of life in the fifties, after the children are grown and have left the home.

It seems likely that people now think of the prime of life as coming later than they did a century ago. The latter half of life now seems more inviting, and also something (as Mr. Tibbitts has explained) more to be counted on, than was true a century ago.While there are still many who moan and groan inwardly when they reach their 40th birthday, there are a growing number who ignore 40 and rejoice when they reach 50, because they feel they can begin to enjoy the fruits of the first 50 years of life.A few years ago a Paris newspaper held an essay contest with the title "The Best 10 Years of Life." The prize was won by a Frenchman who said that the decade from 50 to 60 was the best, for the following reasons:

1. A man's daughters, if he has them, are married off and their dowries paid.

2. A man's business competitors are either too old to be effective, or too young to be experienced.

3. Inherited wealth has come, if there is to be any.

4. A man can really enjoy his leisure-time interests.

What this man saw at 50 was a set of changes which, on the whole, made life more interesting and rewarding to him.

Mental hygiene of old age

It is true that we all have to readjust in old age as our situations change, but we have to readjust through every change to which we are exposed by the vicissitudes of our lives. The stresses we encounter in old age are perhaps most comparable to the stresses in our adolescence, which is another period of emotional turbulence in which our adjustments are likely to be more strenuous even than in old age. Most of us get by adolescence and most of us are quite likely to keep our equilibrium within fair balance through the process of getting old. The point I want to reiterate is that the severity of our problems, our reactions to them, and our solutions of these problems, depend on our previous life.

They are predominantly individual and to a large extent different in each person. Our adjustments are affected by external and internal factors, by cultural, economic, and social situations as well as by the inevitable fact that everything living is constantly aging and dying. Mental hygiene of old age is related to many things which require social or political action. Various educational measures or programs can be helpful in improving mental health of the aged, and social case work can help individual instances. The progress of physical medicine is likely to multiply though not necessarily increase the problems of old age. Many questions relating to the psychic functioning of old people are still unanswered. The practical present-day measures of mental health in old age are part and parcel of the mental hygiene of all ages. The adjustment of the aged is a direct continuation of his adjustment from infancy on.

More immediately, our latest adjustment depends on the richness and the satisfaction we have achieved before we reach old age. It depends on how well we have matured and how well we have reaped the fruits of our maturity in our relations with our spouses, our children, and our friends. It depends on how well we have achieved emotional security, independence, and the satisfactions of various interests and activities which go with maturity. With better mental hygiene through our earlier life, the problems of old age will be minimized. The better our previous mental health, the more readily we will accept old age, the better we will be prepared for it, and the more easily we shall find pleasures in new things to substitute for those no longer available to us. The problems and difficulties of our later adjustment are largely continuations of our precarious adjustments in earlier years. Those of us who have lived fairly satisfactory lives need not have any fears or doubts about our old age. Our earlier satisfactions will be the foundation and the guarantee of our emotional and psychic well-being in later years.

The loss of a home at an advanced age

The loss of a home, because of economic circumstances or because of the physical or emotional incapacity of the older person to maintain himself independently, brings problems of its own. To live with one's children may be an excellent solution but often brings with it many emotional and psychological difficulties. The parent who attempts to deny his increasing age and his loss of power or independence may not only seek to resume his previous authoritative relationship to his children but may exaggerate it to the point of tyranny. He is made unhappy by any display of independence or difference of interests in his children. He will interfere with all activities and insist on special prerogatives and privileges as an older, wiser, and respected person. He may attempt to exact filial obedience to the point of complete subjugation. Old jealousies are revived and increased and the aged mother may compete with her children for the affection of her grandchildren, of the servants in the house, of the "in-laws," or even of the neighbors. Old hostilities are revived and aggravated on both sides, with the children who had felt themselves rejected or thwarted in their childhood, attempting unconsciously, or even consciously, to get revenge on their parents.

In addition to the usual irritations, this may arouse guilt feelings in the children and disturb their emotional equilibrium. When the condition of the parent demands much care because of chronic illness or debility, the problems are likely to become so severe that, to prevent illness on the part of the children and serious emotional disturbances on the part of the grandchildren, other living arrangements must be considered. The struggle between the older parent and his children may resolve itself with the parent becoming submissive, withdrawn, and quite unhappy. The parent may become completely dependent, demanding attention to the point of developing illnesses and exaggerating pains and incapacities. Often this is the only satisfaction the parent gets in a situation in which he feels thwarted, and where his own personal interests and activities are markedly circumscribed by, probably, an unconsciously hostile oversolicitude of his children. What happens when an older mother or father comes to live with a married child, of course, again depends on his previous relationship with this child, on his previous adjustments, and on his present interests. Not only must his own welfare be considered, but also that of the rest of the family, most especially that of the youngsters growing up in the household. On the basis of the individual situation, or perhaps on the basis of a trial, it may prove that the best adjustment is permanent residence in the child's home, or that a transitory stay only is advisable there. Living with children will often succeed, but if it does not and if factors are present which cannot be changed, and which will doom the attempt to failure, then living in the home of a stranger or in a special institution for the aged should be resolutely advised and worked for.

Wherever the aged one may live, he will fare much better if he has a room of his own. We know that prisoners of war were hopeless and apathetic when first captured and that their hopes and interests revived as soon as they could hang a picture of their own, or have a bunk or a little corner which was theirs. With all persons it is important, but much more so with the aged, that they have a place which they can keep in any kind of state they wish, where they can accumulate and hoard, within reason, the little symbols of their past power and their present security. Their own rooms represent to them psychologically much more than we are likely to think when we are younger.

The loss of a spouse at an advanced age

The loss of a spouse at an advanced age, more commonly the loss of a husband, is likely to result in a marked psychological reaction. It often results in a serious economic change, the loss of a home, and brings forth the specter of a future in a dependent situation. It carries with it an implied threat of the nearness of our own end. Above all, it calls for a readjustment of one's emotional relationships to people. The surviving person must reinvest his feelings of tenderness and affection in someone else and must find other sources to supply his own needs for love and friendliness. At least for a while, life is likely to be empty, frightening, and depressing. People try to ignore or deny the loss of their spouse by retaining the house or the furniture as a symbol of their marriage. They continuously talk of their past life and of the departed husband or wife. We can forgive them if at times they exaggerate and forget some unpleasant difficulties of their past marital life. In their effort to regain an emotional relationship with someone, they may again turn to their children, other relatives, or even strangers, to shower them with solicitude, often interfering and unwelcome, and to demand from them attention with frequently annoying persistence. Their striving to find substitutes in friendships or in the care of children or grandchildren may never prove satisfactory, when it is tried, and their grief may persist. A mental or physical illness coupled with a lack of desire to live not too rarely ends the survivor's life before long.

The difficulties in readjustment after the loss of a spouse, the loss of a job, or the loss of health, are accentuated when our friends become fewer as we grow older. Our own increasing rigidity and insistence on regularity often limit our social contacts. Physical difficulties make the maintenance of friendship difficult. When we lose our jobs, we lose many social contacts. We or our friends are likely to move away and there are fewer and fewer old people around. If we have lost our homes, it is more difficult to entertain and more difficult to meet new friends to replace those who have gone. Younger generations crowd the older people, who are likely to develop a class consciousness and feel resentful toward the whole class of younger people by whom they feel themselves displaced. They become hostile and suspicious and withdraw more and more, becoming increasingly impoverished as far as external satisfactions are concerned and less able to make a readjustment. When economic situations permit it, old people tend to migrate to Florida or California. There the concentrations of old people are high, and this, perhaps even more than the climate, draws them to these places.

The reaction to the loss of a job

Of the changes outside of himself which the aging person has to face, the loss of his occupation is usually extremely disturbing. The loss of a job through discharge, or the loss of one's daily work through retirement, may be sudden and carries with it the implication of economic dependency, unemployability, etc., only too often. In a woman, the loss of her occupation is usually also associated with complete disruption of routine and generally with the need of a serious social readjustment since it is often the result of the death of her husband and the loss of her home.

How important the mere routine of some activity may be, can be seen from the numerous instances of older people who find and maintain regular activities of some kind to substitute for the work they have lost. Minor chores around the house, walks to certain places in town, or meeting and inspecting the afternoon train each day assume a tremendous importance. It is as if this regularity itself were an insurance against all the dire but unknown danger which they feel threatening them. But the job itself has much more meaning than this. Our feeling of well-being is always dependent to some extent on how we judge ourselves and how others judge us on the basis of our accomplishments. We derive some of our feeling of well-being from our importance and the power we have, from the usefulness we feel, from the approval of others, as well as from the economic and social status which goes with our occupation. As we get older and the direct satisfactions of our physical, primarily sexual, drives lessen, we seem to depend much more on those things which heighten our selfesteem and which are often associated with our work. It is for this reason partly that older people are so insistent that respect be shown to them and so sensitive to any change which is likely to endanger their established position.

The reaction to the loss of a job will again depend on a great many factors in the person's previous development. It will also depend on how well he was prepared for and how much he had anticipated this particular change. If he was prepared for it, he may still resent it, become mildly anxious or depressed, but is likely to have something ready to substitute for his old work. It may be another, more suitable, job, or some hobby, or study or travel. His reaction and adjustment will also depend upon how much functional capacity he still retains and how much ability to change and to adapt himself to new situations remains with him. A baseball player who is old at forty is in an entirely different situation from that of a factory worker who is discharged from his job or retired at sixty or sixty-five. The baseball player has usually anticipated the end of his active playing days and has been able to prepare some plans for his retirement. He is still young and healthy enough to be able to adjust to some new occupation. The housewife who has lost the work in her home at the age of sixty-five will have fewer capacities for readjustment, especially if, as so often happens, she has withdrawn from social contacts, has limited her interests, and has devoted herself increasingly to her household as her years advanced. Our reactions to loss of job do depend to a very large extent on how rich our life has been before. The fewer satisfactions we had previously, the more disturbed we are likely to get. The fewer friends and interests and hobbies we have, the harder it will be to find a substitute for our jobs. The financial or economic status may make a considerable difference, especially in those people who have through their lives feared and combated an unconscious desire to be dependent and to be taken care of by others. Such people may become markedly disturbed by the prospect of having to succumb to this forbidden desire. Some people may finally give in completely and become excessively childlike, demanding of attention and solicitude now that dependency has become acceptable to them because of their old age.

To summarize, a person's reaction to the loss of his work will depend not only on his previous adjustment, most especially his need for selfesteem, but also on how suddenly this loss came upon him and on what interests and activities he can substitute for his work. During the critical period of readjustment, he will react, depending on his habitual modes of dealing with problems, with anxiety or depression, with irritability or ideas of persecution, with apathy, or at times with sickness. As you know, the reaction or response not infrequently is either a frank and obvious suicide or one which is less apparent but just as effective by means of a so-called accident, or a mysterious but marked and rapid deterioration of health. Luckily, most of the disturbances of readjustment are not only mild but also temporary.

With advancing years, social or interpersonal relations are apt to be changed by the loss of children, husband or wife, or of friends. The children grow up, become independent, move away, and the house becomes empty. This used to happen fairly early in people's lives, and the children did not go very far. The readjustment to it was then relatively easier. Now people marry later and children stay home longer, and both their occupations and their new locations are often much farther removed from the parents. The loss of children from the home is getting to be a problem of later years and therefore harder to cope with. When much effort and energy and interest have been concentrated on the children, the adjustment to their departure is also more difficult. Too frequently, children have special psychological meanings to their parents, which complicate matters. A mother may have transferred all of her affection from her husband to her children, or to some one child. She will resent and fight against any independent life of this offspring and strongly react to her abandonment by him. The father may attempt to retain his youth and to perpetuate himself and his power through his children and insist on their working with him to serve his interests. He will then become critical and bitter when they choose to do otherwise. These, and some other special types of reaction to the departure of the children from the household, are fortunately not too common.

Mental Hygiene of Old Age

The psychological problems of old age usually are associated with the readjustments the person who is growing older has to make to the changes which commonly, or well-nigh inevitably, overtake him. . . . What I should like to do at present is to inquire into the emotional impact and the psychological meaning that readjustments to changed situations have for the aged. It is obvious that when anything disturbs the equilibrium of our adjustment we react in a manner more or less characteristic of our personality. We usually repeat our previously established methods of dealing with conflicts or problems. It is also obvious that the equilibrium of different people will be disturbed to different degrees, by the same changes in situation, and that this disturbance will depend on what the specific change means to the individual involved. In other words, the significance to an aging person of any change in his situation, and his mode of reaction to it, will be directly related to his previous history. His present adjustment is the resultant of his constitutional endowment and his physical and functional growth and development, of his past successes and failures, and of his previous modes of adapting his physical, emotional, and social needs to his inner and outer environmental situations.

The very marked individual variations merely emphasize the fact that the person growing older is still the same person, and that the traces of his infancy and childhood, adolescence and maturity, will, of course, be found in his later years. Though his reactions to the various changes in old age will be directly related to his previous life, we can make some successful attempts at generalizations. . . .

How is he apt to react to [aging]? A man who, throughout his life, has prided himself on his physical prowess and who has constantly, though not necessarily consciously, attempted to protect his bodily self will certainly react much more violently than one who had no strong fears in regard to his physical integrity. So will a woman to whom her beauty and appeal or physical health and capacity were of particular psychological importance. Men or women who have striven throughout their lives from childhood on to balance their feelings of inadequacy by success, will certainly be strongly affected by the realization of their failing capacities. People who have always felt insecure are also likely to have a marked situational reaction at this time. Those who have denied themselves various satisfactions because of feelings of guilt, or other fears, are now likely to become panicky and disturbed and may frantically seek to compensate themselves. Aging, and. all it may imply to them, may be completely rejected by them, at least temporarily. They may attempt to deny the fact of their growing older, refuse to acknowledge any illnesses or give heed to any weaknesses. Not only that, they may over react, affecting manners and clothes of a much younger age, and attempting to achieve successes in their profession, in their social life, and particularly in the sexual sphere, in competition with much younger people. This sort of reaction is quite common. Mild anxiety is quite frequent too, but it may become very marked and show itself in sleeplessness, irritability, or in various fears, especially in regard to health or in regard to the future. Attempts may be made to alleviate these anxieties by excessive care or by almost ritual-like precautions. Depending on their previous modes of reaction, people may extrude the knowledge that they are growing older and their resentment of the younger generations which are making them aware of it, and attach their feelings to others about them. They become suspicious and even paranoid, feeling that they are persecuted and treated unfairly. There may be some truth in this at times, and they make the most of it. Finding satisfactions at their mature level blocked, they may turn to earlier, childish, or even infantile, methods of gaining pleasures. They may act and behave in a helpless, childish manner, unconsciously seeking a return to a more satisfying period of their lives. This may manifest itself in a milder form as an attempt to stop the progress of time by insisting that all things remain as they were, with intolerance for any change or for any new-fangled ideas and with an increased, rigid resistance to any new adaptations. These people may then collect trifles or even trash and store them as if they were something valuable. The realization of being older may be a catastrophe to some, before which they give up the fight and passively submit. They may become markedly depressed in the face of it, further deprecating themselves, being pessimistic, in fact, entirely hopeless about the future, and even committing suicide. Some of these reactions may be relatively mild and transitory. In others they may, however, assume the proportions of a psychosis when the person loses contact with reality to a very considerable extent, or they may become neurotic illnesses often superimposed on a diminished intellectual functioning as a result of some brain damage. These reactions may be temporary and usually are, especially if they occur in association with serious economic, social, or occupational changes, and if the previous adjustment of the person and his previous life satisfactions were adequate. In rarer instances, when the past and present conditions are unfavorable, they may be extremely persistent and even become permanently, incapacitating, in spite of any treatment.

Aging: What can be done?

What about the future? What can be done? . . .

The essential requirements for their prevention and/or early treatment are, first, that initiative and effort be contributed by the individual. We can give health to no one any more than we can give or buy true respect. Both have to be earned. Health is not a fundamental human right. It is a privilege, and, as a privilege, it entails the equivalent responsibility for its maintenance. Thus, the initiative and effort must be made on the part of the aging individual to maintain his own health. Herein lies the greatest obstacle to full application of existing knowledge. Advice which is not followed is useless. . . .

Whose responsibility is maintenance of health? It is yours and mine. Our greatest hope lies, I feel, in research and education. Medical research will be relatively futile, however, without the backing of broad public or lay education. First is the need to emphasize the importance of individual responsibility. Second, education is needed in how to use, rather than abuse, our endowment of healthy bodies in youth. Third, education should be directed toward preparation for senescence. It is truly extraordinary that though we all are in full agreement that youth must spend some of its time in preparing how to become an adult, it is assumed that preparation for senescence is unnecessary. The number of young adults who give thought to their own future is pitifully small. I was once told by Mr. James, then secretary of the Carnegie Teacher's Annuity and Life Insurance Association, which insures university professors, high-school teachers, and the like, that when they wrote to their policyholders: "Dear Professor So and So, You are due to retire in six months. How would you like your pension fund paid, and can we be of any assistance to you?" 75 per cent of their policyholders replied in this vein: "An exception is going to be made in my case. I have made no plans for retirement; I wouldn't know what to do if it was forced upon me." These replies came from people who are supposed to have foresight and who devote their lives to teaching. I think we should be ashamed of ourselves, and I say 'we' because for twenty years I taught medical students.

Finally, I should like to give you the thought that the longer men live, the more time there is to think; to think is to grow; and to grow is to live.

What aging is

There can be no sharp line of division between health and disease if we consider disease a depreciation of health. Health is always relative. But we must remember that disease does not necessarily imply disaster. There is not an individual in this room who is free of disease in the sense of having some depreciation of health. I have two chronic, utterly incurable diseases-one an arthritis of the hip that makes me wax profane at times and that kept me out of the Army, and the other an absolutely incurable optimism. I am perfectly willing to admit these disorders for they are not unique. It were better if all of us were aware of our defects in health and modified our lives accordingly. The adult who brags about his "perfect health" is suffering hazardous delusions. As health is always relative, there is always room for improvement.

Before leaving the subject of the biology of senescence, I should like to make one more comment regarding the theories of what aging is. As elsewhere in science, there are two opposing theories. . . . The two schools of thought regarding the basic reasons for the depreciations of aging are: (1) we wear out and (2) we rust out. One assumes that age change results from misuse or use; the other, from disuse or lack of use. The actual evidence for these two opposing concepts is so nearly equal that we may say the choice between one idea or the other depends upon the personality of the chooser. The energetic and ambitious man who bounds out of bed in the morning with vigor and enthusiasm and yodels in the cold shower says, "To age is to rust out. If I keep going, I'll go farther." The indolent, easy-going, lazy sort of chap says, "To age is to wear out. If I take it easy, I'll last longer." The actual data are just about equal. It should be kept in mind, however, that disuse, or lack of use, should be considered a form of abuse or misuse. Thus, the two theories are not truly incompatible nor mutually exclusive. Both may be correct.

But how does this theory and basic science affect you and me as individuals? To my mind, geriatric medicine is by no means limited to the senile, the aged, the decrepit, and the infirm. If it were, I would have no particular interest in geriatric medicine. The senile are the end results of senescence. What is particularly interesting is how we become senile. This morning an attempt was made at defining just when the problems of the aged begin. In many respects, the most critical phase of aging occurs in the two decades from forty to sixty. It is in this period of senescence that the changes which will ultimately disable begin and when we can hope to accomplish something by preventive measures. At that time, we have the alternative of trying to prevent unnecessary depreciation or of attempting to patch up a wreck and a ruin later on. Furthermore, there are far more aging people than there are those already old. . . .

The changes that occur with aging start far earlier than their detectable manifestations. They are silent and insidious. The superficial things, like graying hair and wrinkles, are not important. Really, what difference does it make whether the dome be covered with thatch or it be gilded? What goes on underneath is what counts, is it not? The physical implications of normal aging of personal importance are several.

First and foremost is the fact that repair after injury is slowed. We may say that for each five years we have lived it takes us an extra day to repair after a given injury, such as a sore throat or a broken leg. Little Willie, who is five years old, having suffered a sore throat, has a normal temperature after one day. . . .

Physicians sometimes find it difficult to persuade an older patient to take adequate time to convalesce, because grandpa feels that the office, or the university, will collapse and go to pieces if he does not get back promptly. It is important for the maintenance of his ego that he feel indispensable. Therefore, it is often necessary to compromise and accept six days for convalescence, one day for each ten years that grandpa has lived, instead of the more appropriate twelve days.

Second, the lessened reactions to injury and inconspicuousness of symptoms. In consequence of this relative silence, illness is often neglected too long. Delay in diagnosis and in institution of treatment is a definite and serious handicap in the practice of geriatric medicine. Depreciations in health must be searched for by thorough medical study if they are to be discovered early enough to permit of fully effective therapy.

Third, there are lessened reserves for stresses which become apparent with aging. Tolerance for heat and cold, overeating and starvation, dehydration, and salt depletion is reduced. We must learn to use our heads rather than our brawn for defense. . . .

How are we going to measure biologic age

We speak with pride of our freedom, and yet we are slaves to time; it is time to get up; it is time to shave; it is time to get breakfast; it is time to get a plane; it is time to come here to a lecture; it is time for a manuscript; it is time to pay taxes. We have forgotten there are other kinds of time than sun time and chronologic time-months, years, days, and hours.

Our ordinary clocks and calendars fail us completely as tools for the measurement of astronomical or geologic time.

There is such thing as biologic time, determined by the rate of living, which may be very rapid in one individual and very slow in another. Phylogenetic time is a subdivision of biologic time. There is also psychological time. To illustrate the variations in psychological time: any military aviator knows that ten seconds of combat are the equivalent of ten minutes in apparent duration and intensity of the experience. Everyone of you needs but to contrast an hour spent in a dentist's waiting room with an hour spent in courtship, to appreciate the variability of psychological time. Nevertheless, each interval is still an hour, as measured by that infernal mechanism, the clock. The rate of living at levels lower than the mental (living which goes on below the level of awareness) is similarly variable. The rate of living is affected by use, by disuse, or by abuse. We must remember that disuse is a form of abuse, as we shall see a little later.

Unfortunately, the great majority of us are biologically older than our years. I would like to reverse the proportions and say the majority of us are biologically younger than our years. But I cannot, and remain truthful. It is my clinical impression that the average individual of sixty years is physically nearer what he should be at seventy, because of unnecessary depreciation.

The biologic age of an individual should be the basic criterion for social adjustments related to age, such as when to grant the right of voting, marriage, retirement, and the assumption and removal of privileges and responsibilities. Is it not utterly ridiculous that a man sixty-four years and 364 days is perfectly competent to carry on the immense responsibilities of an important post, and the next day he is too old to carry them? Such arbitrary retirement rules simply do not make sense.

How are we going to measure biologic age? This is an extremely difficult question, because we have to measure various ages, both structural and functional, and to try to average the estimates. Further complicating the problem is the fact that the various functions and structures are of widely differing significance to our total efficiency. Should the thickness and color of the hair or the presence or absence of wrinkles be weighed the same as visual acuity or the reserve strength of the heart?

The measurement of biologic age becomes a very complex and interesting problem, closely paralleling the challenge involved in the measurement of health, because health and the depreciations of age are closely parallel problems. The definition of health in the dictionaries today is sadly inadequate. Knowing that most medical and college textbooks are at least ten years behind the times, and that dictionaries are at least twenty-five years behind the times, we must not anticipate a revision for perhaps another decade. The antiquated definition of health, as it still appears in authoritative tomes, is that health is that state of being existing in the absence of disease. A negative and utterly inadequate definition. To me, health is that state of being in which all the reserve capacities of the organism are at their maximum. It is an ideal state, an abstraction, and, like infinity, unattainable in its perfection, but approachable.

The older person is less tolerant to starvation

The concentration of sugar in the blood is the same at eight or eighty. Though there is no appreciable change in these constants, the ability to maintain equilibrium depreciates with aging. There is great diminution in tolerance for extremes. Older individuals cannot tolerate extremes of temperature. They become ill when they are cold. An annual trip to Florida and the desire to seek warmth in winter is an admission of senility.

Similarly, the elderly do not tolerate hot weather. Each summer in the twenty-five years of practice, I have seen anywhere from one to ten persons over seventy years of age collapse during a spell of hot weather. They seem to go all to pieces. Last week I saw a gentleman of eightyfour who, after several hot days, suddenly became too weak one morning to raise his head from his pillow. He has no recollection of a period of twenty-four hours. His collapse occurred because he did not compensate for the changed external environment by necessary dietary adjustments. All he needed was some salt. Two liters of saline solution were given into his vein, and in a few hours he wanted to get up and go home. You see, as we grow older we live by habit. He had not changed his habits. The hot weather made him sweat (in Washington we not only perspire, we sweat). Sweat is salty, but he drank only pure water and did not adjust to that necessity for an increased salt intake. His collapse was due purely to salt deficiency. Habit was the major cause of his difficulty. A child, whose dietary habits are not fixed by time, will usually demand salty food in hot weather. The older person responds to habit rather than makes adjustment to the environment.

The older person is less tolerant to starvation and to overeating. The ability to maintain a normal blood sugar concentration is lessened. Thus, it is frequently desirable for the aged to eat small quantities often, rather than to attempt to eat large amounts at longer intervals.

In the aged where the reaction to any stress is lessened, symptoms are less conspicuous. The symptoms of illness are not due to injury; they are due to the reactions of the body to the injury and in later life these reactions are less violent. We may see a man of seventy walking around, admitting he does not feel very well, but not complaining very much, despite the fact he is suffering from an extensive lobar pneumonia. . . . The older person's symptoms are much less conspicuous. Perhaps it is a blessing that illness in later years is associated with less subjective distress, but it is also a curse, inasmuch as medical attention is postponed. Too often the institution of therapy is delayed until such time that only a miracle can be expected to accomplish a cure. Pain is our friend, more precious than that dearest chum who warns us about halitosis. There are fewer accidents where there are stoplights.

The rate of aging change is by no means fixed; it is extremely variable. . . .

The asymmetry of aging is extremely significant to you and to me as individuals, as well as to the physician. First of all, there is a variation in the rate of aging at different times in the life span. For example, at puberty and the climacteric there is an acceleration of change in the structures involved in reproduction, whereas other structures do not show such acceleration of change at that particular time. There is a great variation of physical versus mental, and especially emotional maturation. For example, I am sure all of you have had experiences with individuals with old hearts but young ideas. They are likely to get into trouble because of this asymmetry; they play tennis long after they should cease. Perhaps a greater problem than being old too young, is the problem of being too young when old. Biologic age is by no means synonymous with chronologic age. They are not at all the same. They may coincide, but such parallelism is largely coincidental.

The Personal Challenge of Aging: Biological Changes

The problem of aging is so immense that I should like to take a few moments for orientation. In order to comprehend any complicated situation involving human affairs or involving natural affairs in which human beings are concerned, such as floods, wars, volcanoes, divorce, marriage, aging, and other potential catastrophies, we need to look at it from three perspectives. If we look at it only from one or two of these perspectives, we assume a very asymmetric viewpoint. The three perspectives can be easily defined by using magnification as our basic simile. First, we must examine the problem with the naked eye. The individual is indivisible; body and mind are one. The individual is the unit. Second, with a microscope, we can take this person apart with blood counts, kidney function tests, blood pressure observations, basal metabolism determinations, and various other procedures. When we study the individual microscopically and dissect him into his biological components, the cell becomes the unit of thought, rather than the individual. Lastly, we must stand back far enough so that we may look at this individual with a telescope and see him in relation to the total environment, social and physical, economic, biological, and historical.

The science of aging, or gerontology, includes all three of these facets or perspectives. Man is the core. Our motivation for study is concern with ourselves. . . .

The second division of gerontology is concerned with the biology of senescence. Here the cell is the unit of thought. Each of us is composed of approximately two billion cells. The world population, in contrast, consists of about two billion people. The third division of gerontology is concerned with the sociologic problems of the aging in this crowded world. . . .

Aging may be defined as the element of time in living. Aging is part of living. Aging begins with conception and terminates with death. It cannot be arrested unless we arrest life. There is no elixir of eternal youth, thank goodness! It would be dreadful to remain infants all our lives. We may retard aging or accelerate it, but we cannot arrest it while life goes on, because it is essentially an element of living. Living is a continuous process, variable in its rates. Aging slows as we grow older. This is one of the compensations for later years. Aging change is rapid in youth and even more rapid prenatally in the period between conception and birth.

Aging involves two simultaneous processes which operate continuously in spite of the fact that they are contradictory to one another. On the one hand growth or evolution occurs, on the other atrophy (which means shrinkage) or involution. These processes continue throughout life, though at varying rates. We can observe illustrations of atrophy even before the infant is born in the disappearance of the gill clefts which first develop and then atrophy in the early mammalian embryo. At the time of birth, when the child begins to breathe and get its oxygen from the lungs instead of from the mother's circulation, the atrophy of certain arterial structures is indistinguishable under the microscope from the involutionary changes which we see late in life. The atrophic process is the same in the newborn infant and in the senile grandparent. A very interesting phenomenon occurs in the placenta or afterbirth. It becomes atrophic or "old" when its functional life is near termination. At nine months of pregnancy, these exists an intimate proximity and interdependence in a very young baby, a middle-aged mother, and a senile placenta. Biologically adjacent and functioning together are three widely divergent biological ages. Here is an area of study which has by no means been explored adequately.

On the other hand, growth continues late in life. The hair continues to grow throughout life, and certain hairs grow more vigorously than ever. The eyebrows become shaggy, and often about the ears there is a growth of bristly hairs that were not there in middle age and youth. The whiskers become heavier, more brittle, and thicker. The lower jaw continues to grow throughout life, according to reports of several anthropologists. These students of anatomy, however, do not tell whether the rate of this growth in later years varies with the amount of wagging that the lower jaw has done during the lifetime. It is quite possible that such functional activity is a modifying factor, as we shall see later. I am not being facetious.

Cells are the ultimate units of life. What can we learn about the aging of cells? Here the biologist in search of information is blocked, because individual cells do not age. They grow to maturity, and then divide to create two young daughter cells. Individual cells simply do not age in the sense that an individual ages. With the exception of a very few cells in our central nervous system, the brain, and spinal cord, none of the cells of our bodies is as old as we are. They are being replaced constantly with young cells. You and I are constantly rubbing off our hides and developing new skin underneath. The same process, without the friction, occurs in all other structures. So we come up against an insurmountable difficulty in studying the aging of the individual cell, because the individual cell does not age.

The limiting proviso is a fundamental clue to the mechanism of aging. Continuation of a culture of cells is possible only if the culture medium in which it grows is sterile and refreshed every forty-eight hours. If the medium is permitted to become depleted of necessary food elements and allowed to accumulate the toxic garbage of the living, growing cells, the tissue culture quickly degenerates and dies. The essence of senescence lies not in the cellular structure, but in the matrix fluid in which they live. This intercellular medium is often spoken of as the internal environment.

Perhaps some of you do not realize that we live in two environments-an external environment of social strife, stale air, tobacco smoke, grime, grit, wind, snow, competition, sunshine, love, and hate, and an internal environment which is extraordinarily stable. The internal environment varies very little chemically and very little physically. We are by no means healthy if our temperature varies more than a degree, or more than 1 per cent of the optimum. If the concentration of sugar in the blood rises above a certain level we are no longer biologically healthy. Or if the glucose content of the blood falls below a certain level we become ill. The same applies to the many other chemical elements included in the composition of the organism. There are many elaborate mechanisms for maintaining the constancy of this internal environment. If this internal environment is not maintained within a relatively narrow range, health is impaired. We may say that an optimum internal environment is synonymous with health; that an internal environment deviating from the desirable in some respects but still within tolerable limits, is equivalent to disease, but that any intolerable deviation of the internal environment leads to death. The constants, and by that I mean such factors as body temperature, pulse, blood pressure, chemical concentrations, and many other things which are relatively constant, are not actually changed by aging. These things are not absolutely constant, but vary within narrow limits. Normal body temperature is the same at eighty as it is at eight. Pulse rate varies relatively little with age under comparable conditions of rest. Of course, the child of eight is much more active and energetic than the individual of eighty, and thus reveals a more rapid pulse when active, partly because he is more active.

Young people and leisure

Adolescence is often a time of considerable turbulence both for the young person and for those in close association with them. The period may also be one of considerable creativity, experimentation and excitement. Young people explore their environments, look for new ones, sample new experiences -- all in an attempt to crystallise their personal identities which will underpin a transition to greater independence. The paradox in considering young people and their leisure patterns is that while their experience is in one sense universal and phase-specific, in another sense they are incomparably variable; their attention shifts frequently, they like moving from one interest to another, they are highly labile in their behaviour from day to day, if not from hour to hour. Typically, when young people describe their 'patterns' of activity, they may include activities they have pursued only once, and intend to pursue again, or activities they are interested in pursuing in future. In this sense they are difficult to categorise, to pin down, and they tend to react against pressures to organise or plan for them though their malleability is not easy to grasp and is generally lost in reports based on survey data. On the other hand, providers of leisure, or any other facilities, like to be able to classify and predict the behaviour of the populations they are providing for and find it difficult to subsume such a high level of variation in their provision. If they can accept that the 'membership' of groups for which they cater may be highly unstable, their tasks may be eased; there are likely to be sufficient numbers of young people at any given time eager to pursue specific activities -- both to sample the activities and the people there. This may suggest a reorientation to the goals of many providers.

Examining the process of transition to greater independence, in the framework we have suggested, young people are seen as moving along developmental life line, with groupings of significant social influences impinging on them; family, school/work and community. This is a cross-section of the life line presented in chapter 1. Within each sector of this model there are some figures who are close and who entertain personal relationships with the individual (parent, teacher, corner shopkeeper) and others who are more remote, known only through their social roles in organizations (the principal, the club warden) or even through the mass media (a pop idol, a famous footballer or a figure from a novel). Remoteness does not necessarily mean lack of influence; many young people go through periods in which major influences are derived from novels or plays; characters in Tolkien, O'Neill or Dostoyevsky may become very real and influential for them, as many figures in science, sport, religion or the entertainment world. The circles suggest degrees of closeness and each is divided into different spheres of life.

The shape and sizes of the different sectors of the life space vary by individual, as does the way in which they are populated and the influence that a given person or group will have on an individual. People vary in the extent to which they differentiate life sectors.

Most individuals develop categories which cut across those defined in formal terms; for example, people you can trust. Early patterns of relationship tend to carry over and generalise so that individuals who develop basic trust towards early family members are more likely to be trusting in other relationships as they proceed through school and into the broader spectrum of social relationships. Conversely those who have learned that distrust, suspicion and anxiety are prominent among the rules of life are likely to generalise these dispositions. Neither blanket trust nor blanket distrust is appropriate in a complex world. But adolescence is a period in which people and interests are intensively tested out and young people learn to discriminate those who can be trusted from those who cannot; between situations in which effort is worth while and those in which it is not.

Similarly for adults it is necessary to differentiate between different kinds of young people. Knowledge of their developmental experiences allows specific young people to be related to constructively as they are, rather than in terms of stereotypes.

For young people this may be the happiest time of their lives, but many are sad; they often seem frantically busy and impatient with their elders, but as often they impress their elders as idle (in the best sense described by Bertrand Russell) and view their elders' hyperactivity with scarcely concealed scorn; young people are idealistic and they are egocentric; they are sensuous and they are cold; they are engaging and emotionally removed; they are aggressive and they are shy; they are arrogant and humble; they are bright and they are stupid. They are people -- and as such intrinsically variable -- but it often seems that their variations are caricatures of other people's variations. They often seem, in the needs they express, to be a mass of contradictions. Sometimes they seem to need constant stimulation; at other times they seem to need to be bored; they seem to need to huddle together and they seem to need to be alone.

The perception of freedom

The perception of freedom by the person who participates in leisure is an important factor.

Thus there will be considerable variety in the definitions that people give of leisure or of free time. Further, time as a physical element is measurable, but amount of leisure is not, if one mother perceives herself to be heavily weighted down when she feeds her infant, whereas a second finds it a delightful experience. Thus freedom is as much an issue for the social psychologist as for the economist and political scientist. The student of leisure deals on both levels, that is, with absolute quantities of time free from economic functioning and with time that is perceived as free.


If the concept of leisure is equated with re-creation, it has no value in itself except as a supplement to work. As developed in this book, leisure has moved further and further from subordination to work; increasingly, leisure is an end, a life of its own. As with all human ends, leisure is bound up closely with moral, ethical, and thought systems and with all social institutions.


Old associations of work with seriousness and leisure with lightness are now outdated and theoretically indefensible. Leisure activity, as we shall see, can include interests covering the whole gamut of human life; hence the degree of seriousness or significance is irrelevant to a concept of what leisure is or should be.


Play, as viewed by Huizinga, penetrates many human activities. In this broad view several of the elements of play, as he defined them, are synonymous with leisure: voluntariness, play as freedom, play as an interlude in life. Leisure, as we are characterizing it here, differs from Huizinga's scheme for play in that leisure is not necessarily secluded and limited, starting and stopping at specific times; it is unlimited in time and space, and as a system of order it is less limited by rules and norms. If we leave Huizinga and revert to the vernacular (historically inadequate) concept of play as an activity that is light, associated with child life, or an objectified slice of life on a stage, then, of course, leisure is a much wider and inclusive concept in which play is only one type.

This ideal construct of leisure is not intended to indicate a content, although we will speak later of types of leisure activity. Our basic assumption is that anything or any specific acdvity can become a basis for leisure. Further, it is evident that the construct has incorporated the subjective listing of views about leisure that were summarized earlier. We are now saying that there will be a variet in the perceptions by which people will see or understand their free time. However, this element of perception can hardly be reduced to only one of a set of elements, for in actual cases one or another of the elements will be emphasized.Two issues of method demand discussion: the use of this construct in (a) observing and (b) judging specific forms of leisure.Since we proceed on the assumption that leisure is not definable as a given activity but is rather a characterstic social relationship, how can a classification be derived? As all scientific classifications are: by the creation of typological tools sharpened to meet certain kinds of issues.

Engaged in leisure

Engaged in leisure, I can dig a ditch in my yard to make way for some landscaping project; this requires energy, more than my economic job. It is, however, outside the economic system in the usual way in which I relate myself to that system. It is, obviously, not altogether unrelated to economics per se, for my "labor of love" may deprive a professional worker in these lines of employment.


With this element we eliminate all enforced leisure, such as unemployment, imprisonment, or sickness, and we include a psychological attitude moving both forward and backward in time. It is impossible to divorce "vacation," for instance, from the expectation, planning, daydreaming, savings, packing, or excitement of going away. Such looking ahead often makes the routine of life more bearable, for then work periods are seen as means toward life and living. Similarly, the recollection of the vacation or leisure activity is often inaccurate, colored by the idealization fostered in the preparatory stage. Research would probably show that many persons on vacation enjoy themselves and look back favorably upon their experience because they cannot emotionally afford to contradict their past hopes and projections. As a matter of fact, attitude and expectancy do influence the actual itself.


Social role, from the many positions or obligations he has achieved in his society or that he has been given by it: citizen, father, friend, carpenter, Protestant, Mason, and so on. He is only one John Smith who plays or possesses many roles. Part of the adjustment, maturity, normality, or personality he is credited with by everyone else is defined by how he behaves in each of these roles and, more important, how he combines or synthesizes them all into the one social being known as John Smith. In each of the many circles he touches Smith has rights and obligations (voting, supporting his wife, etc.). Leisure activity, too, may have many obligations, from making toys for his children (every father should) to going on trips with his wife (a good husband should). These are obligations, however, that he is more likely to assume voluntarily, and with pleasanter expectations, than, for example, going to work on January 2, to which he is formally committed and for a long period of time. Theoretically, he has greater freedom in deciding whether to be with his family in his off time. The observer from the outside can, in specific cases, question such self-deception; yet John Smith, himself, is the one who perceives his relative freedoms and acts in accordance with his perceptions

Leisure as freedom, Leisure as re-creation

In seeking a concept of leisure that can be useful for his purposes, the sociologist may do one of two things: either he may accept leisure to be what people say it is or what it means to them; or he may seek an ideal construct.

As to the first, if he asks several persons at a baseball game, what brought them there, he will receive a variety of answers: "to enjoy the game," "to get the sunshine," "to get away from home," "to rest." If asked what leisure means to them on a more general level, the same persons are likely to consider it as "time off from work," "free time," "my own time," "doing what I like," "rest," and so on. A more sophisticated audience or a categorical-minded observer might attempt to classify such views in still other ways:

Leisure as a bulk of time, qualitatively distinct from other time, such as the evening.

Leisure as freedom from those activities that have to be done, such as work or household chores.

Leisure as an end, distinct from work as a means.

Leisure as a minimum of obligation to others, to routine, even to oneself.

Leisure as re-creation, to prepare for better work, to store up energy or knowledge.

Leisure as self-improvement, whether in study, seeking new friends, or new experiences.

Leisure as social control, using the time of others to win them over or influence them; i.e., Roman games, German youth.

Leisure as a social symbol of class position, age, or success.

Leisure as sets of attitudes or motivations, not a content.

Leisure as physiological or emotional necessity, such as therapy or physical rest.

The second approach is to construct a general picture or concept of leisure that will avoid the narrowness of anyone type of subjective interpretation and at the same time permit of both subjective perception and objective analysis. The terms "ideal construct" or "ideal type" are sometimes applied to our use in conversation about common speech when we speak of "English society" or "communism"; these analytic tools were systematically used by the eminent scholar Max Weber when he analyzed Protestantism, the Chinese literati, and capitalism. As used by Weber, the ideal type is a general, not a specific, picture or a statistical average. It contains the important elements of the situation, against which a real situation can be assessed. As a typical picture of leisure, what is sought is something "applicable to the analysis of an infinite plurality of concrete cases."

The essential elements of leisure, as we shall interpret it, are (a) an antithesis to "work" as an economic function, (b) a pleasant expectation and recollection, (c) a minimum of involuntary social-role obligations, (d) a psychological perception of freedom, (e) a close relation to values of the culture, (f) the inclusion of an entire range from inconsequence and insignificance to weightiness and importance, and (g) often, but not necessarily, an activity characterized by the element of play.

Recreation - Play

This term comes from the Latin recreatio, to restore or refresf; "To restore to a good or normal physical condition from a state of weakness or exhaustion; to invest with fresh vigour or strength." 11 "Refreshment of the strength and spirits after toil." Used as an adjective, "Equipped so as to provide diversions or amusements."

The essence of the term is alternation of light, re-creative, pleasant activity -- or inactivity -- with heavy, energy-consuming, obligatory activiy. The psychological element of pleasant anticipation seems warranted. Recreation is a renewal or preparation for the continuance of routine and necessary work. Using the, philosopher's term, it is teleological, from the Greeek term telos -- purpose. In its first sense recreation has the purpose of re-creating or reviatlizing us so that we may more efficiently go back to activities that are not recreational but fundamentally of a work nature.


The term play comes from the Anglo-Saxon plega, a game, a sport; and this usually meant a skirmish, fight, or battle. In the Bible, 2 Sam. ii. 14, to play really means to fight. Similarly, to "play an instrument" was to strike something. The Latin plaga, a blow, stroke, or thrust, is thus a forerunner of the term "plague."The term "play" is currently used in one of two senses:

(a) a light, informal, make-believe action, such as the play of children;

(b) a more formal, stylized, intense, and even serious presentation of some aspect of life on a "stage." In the first use our popular knowledge of psychology has made many people increasingly aware that in "play" the child is doing more than keeping busy; he is, in fact, learning and exploring the world, developing his body, setting attitudes toward himself, toward others, toward things, and toward ethical or social precepts included in the thou shall or the thou shall not. Thus as parents have acquired more understanding of the way in which a child grows up, they have begun to see play as a serious thing. The evidence is in educational toys, the large literature for children, concern with the playmates of their children, lessons for parents on how to play with children, and the development of a core of professional workers in recreation whose job it is to make play for children contribute to personal and group welfare.Thus the change in the conception held of play has in the last few decades reverted to the original concept of play as something significant.

Play is secluded and limited, containing its own course and meanrag: it begins and is over at a specific moment. Yet, since it becomes a tradition, it can be repeated. The dual elements of repetition and alternation are contributions to the independence of play, which further functions within limitations of time and space. Play thus constitutes a temporary world within, and marked off from, the ordinary world Play creates order; in fact, it is order. It is inside a "playground"; slight deviation from the rules spoils the game. Since order has a tendency to be a thing of beauty in and of itself, we have the affinity of play to aesthetics. Order within play contains all the elements of beauty, such as tension, poise, balance, and contrast. Tension demands a solution, a basic cycle to aesthetic experience. Rules become all-important, for deviations threaten the very existence of the play-community.

Last, the play-community tends to become after the game is over, for in the course of playing it has become an "in-group," having already shared a common experience within an atmosphere of some secrecy, some "dressing up," some disguise or identification.

Women's notions of leisure

While the shortened workday allowed more leisure time, women's experiences in the workplace reinforced the appeal of pleasure-oriented recreation in the public sphere. On one level, the desire for frivolous amusement was a reaction against the discipline, drudgery, and exploitative conditions of labor. A woman could forget rattling machinery or irritating customers in the nervous energy and freedom of the grizzly bear and turkey trot, or escape the rigors of the workplace altogether by finding a husband in the city's night spots. "You never rest until you die," observed one young box-maker, "but I will get out by marrying somebody." Indeed, factory investigators recorded the "wide-spread belief of the girls that marriage is relief from the trouble and toil of wage labor."

At the same time, women's notions of leisure were reaffirmed through their positive social interactions within the workplace. In factories, stores, and offices, women socialized with other women and informally cooperated to affect working conditions. Their experience of work in a group context differed sharply from the homebound, task-oriented, and isolated situation of domestic servants, outworkers, and housewives. There developed in this setting a shared and public culture, which legitimized the desires and behaviors expressed in young women's leisure.

Like other work groups, women workers developed degrees of autonomy and control in their relationship to managers and the work process by enforcing informal work rules and production quotas, socializing new employees into these patterns of behavior, and protecting their job skills from the bosses' encroachment. Given their status as low-skilled and easily replaced workers, wage-earning women rarely commanded the control over the work process that men in the skilled trades could exert, but neither were they merely victims of capitalist discipline. Department store saleswomen, for example, used their selling skills to manipulate managers, supervisors, and customers, enforcing work rules among the women to sell only so many goods each day and employing code words to warn co-workers of recalcitrant customers. Bookbinders too employed the notion of a "fair day's work," controlling the output during each stint, while other factory hands orchestrated work stoppages and job actions over such issues as sexual harassment and pay cuts. Even waitresses worked out their resentment toward employers by pilfering pins and small objects, supplying themselves liberally with ice water and towels, and eating desserts ordered for imaginary customers.

In mediating the relationship between the wage-earner and the labor process, work cultures involved not only informal efforts to control work but also the daily interactions that helped pass the long hours. While women characterized the workplace as tedious and demanding, a necessity to be endured, most tried to create places of sociability and support on the shop floor. Women sang songs, recited the plots of novels, argued politics, and gossiped about social life to counteract the monotony and routine of the workday. One feather-maker, for example, described her co-workers' conversations: "We have such a good time. We talk about books that we read, . . . the theatres, and newspapers, and the things that go on about town." Pieceworkers, who had more control over their time than hourly hands, could follow their own rhythms of intense work mixed with periods of sociability. "When I was a pieceworker," recalled one garment worker, "I would sing, I would fool around, say jokes, talk with the girls." Singing helped pace the work, as in one box-makers' shop where songs would rise and fall while the workers sped through their tasks:

Three o'clock, a quarter after, half-past! The terrific tension had all but reached the breaking point. Then there rose a trembling, palpitating sigh that seemed to come from a hundred throats, and blended in a universal expression of relief. In her clear, high treble Angelina began the everlasting "Fatal Wedding." That piece of false sentiment had now a new significance. It became a song of deliverance, and as the workers swelled the chorus, one by one, it meant that the end of the day's toil was in sight.

Even in factories with loud machinery, women would try to converse above the noise, while lunch hours and the after-work walk home also afforded time to socialize with workmates. At Macy's, employees were "fond of sitting down in a corner and eating a pickle and pastry and a cup of tea; they can do that very quickly and can then visit for quite a long time during the rest of the noon hour."

Women's work cultures varied according to type of employment, ethnic and religious affiliation, and larger cultural traditions. American-born union women, believing in self-education and uplift, often mirrored their male counterparts' behavior in the shop. In one New York cigar factory, for example, female trade unionists would pay one of their members to read aloud while they worked: "First the newspaper is read, then some literary work, such as for instance Morley 'Life of Gladstone.'" Even among nonunionized workers, the rituals, rules, and interactions governing work in stores and restaurants, where interpersonal skills were utilized, differed from semiskilled production, where machinery dominated the shop floor. The women themselves had a firm understanding of the occupational hierarchy indicated by language, mores, and "tone." The saleslady's patina of style and refinement differentiated her from the rougher manner of many tobacco or garment workers. Within a single industry, ethnic patterns also shaped different work cultures; cultural and political traditions, for example, contributed to the Jewish waist-makers' readiness to organize and strike, unlike their more hesitant Italian workmates. Despite these distinctive differences, we can discern important commonalities in the work cultures of women that shaped and defined their attitudes toward leisure.

In the workplace, young women marked out a cultural terrain distinct from familial traditions and the customary practices of their ethnic groups, signifying a new identity as wage-earners through language, clothing, and social rituals. "Learners" might adopt new names from storybook romances when they entered a workplace for the first time, and greenhorns shed their Old World names for Anglicized ones. Fads, modish attire, and a distinctive personal style were also encouraged, as wage-earners discussed the latest fashions, learned new hairstyles, and tried out cosmetics and cigarettes. Indeed, employers often found it necessary to proscribe the unseemly behavior of working women: "At Koch's there is a splendid system of rules prohibiting the chewing of gum, rougeing and excessively using face powder."

Sixties Groups Whose Names Have Literary Sources

Group Name Source

Big Brother George Orwell's 1984 (1948)

The Doors Aldous Huxley's The Doors of Perception (1955)

Steppenwolf Herman Hesse's Steppenwolf (1927)

Blood Sweat and Tears Winston Churchill, Speech before the House of Commons, 13 May 1940: "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat."

The Ides of March William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar I, ii, 18 "Beware the ides of March."

Notice that Blood Sweat and Tears and the Ides of March have names that come at the end of a quotation, so that to get it you have to know the first part as well. Since almost all American kids have to read Julius Caesar in high school, that Shakespearean tag is especially indicative. Furthermore, these names as well as that of Big Brother promise something threatening. Music was so loud and so heavy that it did have an aggressive quality—so that it is no surprise that in 1969 a group formed that called itself War.

This use of high culture came from the fact that a new socio-ethnic group entered popular music in the years 1964-69: middle-class white kids who had gone to good suburban high schools as well as college. Aside from the Motown groups, Sly and the Family Stone, Jimi Hendrix, Otis Redding, and a few others, the major rock acts were white. Let's take the personnel of the following sixties bands: Buffalo Springfield, The Byrds, The Doors, Iron Butterfly, Jefferson Airplane, the Lovin' Spoonful, and the Mamas and the Papas. In the specific case of the Buffalo Springfield, the group consisted of: Neil Young, Stephen Stills, Richle Furay, Dewey Martin, and Bruce Palmer. No ethnic names there at all. In fact, there are only three ethnic names in all of these groups put together: Zal Yankowski of the Lovin' Spoonful (Jewish); Ray Manzarek of The Doors (Czech); and Norma Kaukonen of the Jefferson Airplane (Finnish).

Most of these WASP kids had not only gone to good high schools, they had also gotten into good colleges, where they dropped out after listening to the Beatles. Janis Joplin dropped out of the University of Texas, as Grace Slick had dropped out of Manhattanville College, where she had taken classes with Tricia Nixon. Jim Morrison dropped out of two schools, Florida State and UCLA, and, remarkable as it may seem, John Phillips of The Mamas and the Papas, had dropped out of West Point! While people often said that these kids were rebelling against American society, they were in fact too much a part of it to rebel in any consistent way. They just wanted to re-define it a little, and they did.

The question of what Jewish musicians did for rock in the sixties is an interesting one. While Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, and Art Garfunkel are clearly of major importance, they didn't make mainstream rock, music you could dance to, and after them, there's only two short-lived groups, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, and the Blues Project, also known as the Jewish Beatles. On the other hand, the role of Jews in entrepreneurial roles increased. More than any other non-performer, Bill Graham made San Francisco what it was in the late sixties. Clive Davis, as president of Columbia Records, signed up Big Brother and other West Coast acts after Monterey Pop. Jerry Wexler produced Aretha Franklin's legendary sessions at Atlantic and Lou Adler managed the Mamas and the Papas. Meanwhile, a group of articulate writers, most of whom worked for Rolling Stone, were creating the new genre of rock criticism. They included Jonathan Eisen, Jon Landau, Greil Marcus, and Robert Cristgau.