The Last Quarter: Part I – The Predicament

The Last Quarter: Part I – The Predicament

Reflection and Acceptance

“Do not be afraid.
Do not lose resolve.”
— Deuteronomy (1:21)   דברים

A friend and colleague who has chosen to remain nameless wondered how does one do the “work” of self-differentiation or “growing oneself up” in the “last quarter” of life? Given ever-increasing longevity, health related quality of life (HRQoL), and the widening circle of multigenerational caretaking, we might wonder what exactly constitutes the last quarter? Does it start with the 6th, 7th, 8th or 9th decade of our lives? Regardless, by the time we have reached this stage, and certainly before we are done passing through it, we will have encountered most (if not damn near all) of the normative life-cycle transitions and many unexpected, unplanned for crises.

 Individually, aging, sickness and death will get us all. Collectively, a family unit has developmental tasks in this later life stage, succinctly summarized by Carter & McGoldrick as “accepting the shifting of generational roles.” The integrity of the family may be shattered by illness, death and disability. Roles must be restructured and reassigned, and the rules of daily living adapted to ever-changing circumstances. Major determinants of increased anxiety include retirement and financial concerns, grandparenthood, chronic illness and caregiving, and multiple deaths and other losses.

At times of loss, crisis and bereavement, we all need the opportunity to tell our story, to be heard, validated and seen, to have someone to commune with and witness our pain. In the following list I present selective quotes from my colleague concerning current issues and their relationship to unresolved emotional attachments of prior life-cycle stages.

So how to maintain equanimity, happiness, satisfaction, companionship, self-sufficiency, connection, meaning, purpose, love, sensuality, contentment and acceptance in the face of a lifetime’s inevitable struggles and setbacks? Suggestions based on Bowen Family Systems Theory will be offered in a forthcoming blog.

However, if this is a family emergency or a precipitous occurrence of birth, death, marriage or divorce, and you can’t wait a month or so, or even two weeks, then stop reading BUT DO NOT call 911. Rather, consider constructive dialogue with a well trained Bowen Family Systems Theory Relationship Consultant and “Coach” who can not just do something but actually stand there without getting emotionally involved while your family works it out for themselves.


Best of luck on your unfolding journey of a lifetime.

 Please share your thoughts and experiences concerning growing maturity in consonance with increasing chronological age in the “Leave a Reply” box below. To request more information or contact me directly for any reason, please click here. If you found this post helpful, please don’t keep it a secret. You are encouraged to click on the buttons below and share this article with your own networks. Looking forward to continuing the conversation.


Ronald B Cohen, MD, PC Ronald B. Cohen, MD
Bowen Family Systems Coach
1 Barstow Road, Suite P-10
Great Neck, NY 11021
(516) 466-7530

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  1. Ivy Josephine Gomez Hoh on June 4, 2015 at 10:25 am said:

    How does one achieve all the beautiful and wonderful attributes of being in the last quarter of ones life? Is it that easy, is it a given that one will be sailing into the sunset with the love and assured care and gratitude, yes gratitude among other attributes, and completing life’s tasks on earth? I liken life even in the last quarter to the flowing river before it reaches the great ocean of rest, and being embraced by a powerful and wonderful embracer, a quieter, a stiller, a cleanser, and a final absolver. Does that happen before death or after death, I’m not sure! The river still continues to give life to the natural life on the banks, but it remains a river, to our children we are the nurtures, but we remain people who have seen much, felt much and will still see that family life will go on. Sometimes this same river becomes polluted by our own doing whether in the first stage or later stage, but there is hope, because the waters of life keep cleansing as it goes along. Can we recognize that which cleanses, that which gives us opportunities to move on and become a force for our families and others who in turn will be catalysts for our reform? Go with the flow takes on a special meaning here! I am in the last quarter and I suddenly realize that with everything that is happening, good and bad, have become powerful catalysts for my reform for the better. Erikson’s self-actualization has become more meaningful for me! And what has it got to do with family? Everything – a better me makes for a better understanding of children who sometimes seem to us as being from a different ilk altogether!

    • Ronald B Cohen, MD on June 11, 2015 at 2:51 pm said:

      Hi Ivy,

      Deeply, richly and beautifully said. Hopefully we will all achieve healthy and successful aging. Erickson described the major dialectic of this Eighth Stage of his Psychosocial Development construct as Integrity Versus Despair. His epistemological construct defines success at this stage as resulting in feelings of wisdom while failure to successfully complete the task results in feelings of regret, bitterness, and despair.

      The wisdom of experience is best acknowledged with gratitude and respect. Hopefully we will all achieve healthy and successful aging. Life review and reflection coupled with acceptance and a sense of fulfillment helps smooth the transitions. The wisdom of experience is best acknowledged with gratitude and respect.


      — Ron

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