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Life Stages

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Stages of Life--Images of the future




Descriptions of life stages can be found in early Greek literature from the time of Hippocrates, and are based on observable changes in individuals during life, primarily based on biology. I’ve replaced the last stage, “Old Age” (which begins at age 55 in psychological literature) with four stages that I believe more accurately reflect life today.

As important as the stages themselves are, the change periods between stages are the periods of most obvious change, times which are sometimes difficult. Preparation and understanding help. Below are listed ten life stages, with a very brief description of each stage. Note that after age sixty, the stages are no longer related to chronological age.




Birth through two years. Dependent, brain developing, learning motor skills and sensory abilities.


3-9 years. Growing and mastering motor skills and language. Learning to play and socialize. Continued growth, formal school and organized actibvities.


10-19 years. Growth spurts. Puberty brings hormonal changes and reactions. Strong emotions may rule decisions. Behavioral risks.

Young adult

20-29 years. Completing education and beginning career and family. Potential coping and financial pressures.


30-39 years. Managing family and career growth. Increasing numbers of couples are starting families in this stage. Continued coping pressures.

Middle age

40-60 years. First signs of aging and effects of lifestyle; menopause, children are leaving the nest, grandchildren arrive, career peak. Aging parents may require care.

Independent elder

Age 60 onward.More signs of aging and lifestyle effects. Eligible for government provided retirement and health care benefits or private pensions. Retirement, dicretionary time. Some health problems and medications. May care for others.

Vulnerable elder

Optional stage. Beginning of frailty, cognitive or multiple health problems. Require some assistance. Not able to drive. Possible move to Assisted Living.

Dependent elder

Optional stage. Requires daily care. Unable to perform all personal functions. Possible move to a nursing home.

End of Life (Up to six months)

Diagnosed with terminal condition or end stage of disease. May require hospice care, hospitalization or nursing home care

It may be helpful to note that since the last three stages of life are health related, they are optional and not everyone experiences all of them. It is also noteworthy that there seems to be a trend toward compressing these three stages into a shorter period of time at the end of an increasingly longer life.

Your family and your future

Which life stage are you in now? Your children? Your parents? What is the next stage for each of you? Understanding the life stages of your family members helps you prepare for the changes in their lives and the resulting impacts on your life. On the Downloads  page, you can download an Excel spreadsheet that will calculate ages and stages for you and your family members.

 Understanding your life stages offers several insights into your future.

1. The stages iIllustrate the continuity and progression of life through ten stages.

2. The change from each stage to next identifies major periods of change in your life.

3. The stages invite visualization, images, of each of the life stages in your future.

4.Each stage identifies a time frames for planning

To begin planning for your futures, look at the life stage descriptions above and determine which life stage you are in now. Next, determine the stage for which you want to create scenarios and a strategic plan. If you are only a few years into your present life stage, plan for this stage. If you have less than five years remaining in this stage, plan for the remainder of this stage and the next stage together. In middle age or Independent stage, plan for the next ten years.

 Although you will probably do detailed exploration and planning for only one stage at this time, it is important that you look ahead to the other stages, all the way to the end of life, so you will have a view of your entire life. You will find that decisions you make early in life will have impacts on later life, and a full life view will be helpful.

More about the stages of life and how these stages relate to your life and your future can be found in our free workbook, “The Personal Futures Workbook.” The workbook is described on the “Free Downloads" page .

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