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.