Life-long Individual Development

"Ageing is a life-long process and should be recognized as such. Preparation of the entire population for the later stages of life should be an integral part of social policies and encompass physical, psychological, cultural, religious, spiritual, economic, health and other factors" (International Plan of Action on Ageing, para. 25 (i)).

Ageing of the individual in the strict sense means growing old. It can also signify life-long growth and development in physical, economic, psychological, cultural, spiritual and other ways. The expectation of active participation in later years can positively influence personal development choices made earlier in life.

Individual development through the different stages of the life cycle requires both individual initiative and an enabling environment. Individual development can be viewed as a process of interaction between the individual and society which can be mutually beneficial. At the individual level, this implies conscious effort to combine individual independence with contributory/participatory behaviour, while striving towards self-development through life-long education, upgrading of skills and healthy lifestyles. Society, for its part, needs to accord equal importance to the challenges of each stage of the life cycle.

Accomplishments and life skills developed earlier in life can compensate in many ways for some, mainly physical, limitations that are experienced in old age. Such limitations can be mitigated by a supportive environment of family, community and society at large.

When the majority of individuals can pursue life-long individual development, an ageing population can reach maturity not only in terms of demography, but also of intellect and emotion. This would help to ensure, among other things, that the years added to life could be infused with a new sense of purpose and liveliness appreciated at both individual and collective levels.