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March 1964

Reminiscing: Adaptational Significance in the Aged

Author Affiliations

BS, Princeton University, 1945; MD, University of Vermont, 1949; Resident, Menninger School of Psychiatry, 1950-1953; Chief Psychiatrist, Boston Veterans Administration Outpatient Clinic, Boston; Assistant Clinical Professor in Psychiatry, Tufts University School of Medicine; Assistant in Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School; Clinical Associate in Psychiatry, Massachusetts General Hospital (Dr. McMahon); AB, Harvard College, 1951; PhD, Harvard University, 1958; Research Psychologist, Veterans Administration Outpatient Psychiatric Research Laboratory, Boston; Research Associate, Age Center of New England (Dr. Rhudick).

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1964;10(3):292-298. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1964.01720210074011

Introduction  "Generally speaking we call a man well adapted if his productivity, his ability to enjoy life, and his mental equilibrium are undisturbed."1 This definition of successful adaptation by Hartmann introduces his discussion of ego-regulated activities which counteract disturbances in homeostasis and actively improve a person's relationship to his environment. Formulations in ego psychology2,3 provide a framework for considering adaptation in terms of specific phases of development with their accompanying conflicts requiring resolution and have emphasized the human ego's great capacity for transformation in adapting to life stress. We find it useful to view senescence in this context and to define successful adaptation to old age as the result of having coped successfully with problems specific to this phase of life, namely the maintenance of self-esteem in the face of declining physical and intellectual capacities; coping with grief and depression resulting from personal losses; finding means to contribute

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