Generativity: Doing Well While Doing Good

In his Stages of Psychosocial Theory, Eric Erikson proposed that each stage of human development has its ‘psychosocial crisis’, and that the seventh stage, middle adulthood (40-65 years), is characterized by the struggle between generativity and stagnation.  Generativity is defined as caring for and promoting the wellbeing of youth and future generations, being positive and productive, and willing to explore and to take risks.  If we fail to develop our generativity, we stagnate in self-absorption, failing to find meaning in our lives, and falling into fatalism, withdrawal, dissatisfaction with one’s self, and one’s life.

The Stanford Center on Longevity published a report recently on how two demographic groups -older adults and vulnerable young people can fulfill each other’s needs.  The older adults have time, the commitment and the skills to help a generation of vulnerable young people – those at risk due to poverty, low educational levels and even abusive or negligent upbringing.  That report, Hidden in Plain Sight: How Intergenerational Relationships Can Transform Our Future can be found at

Phyllis Segal, Vice President of had this to say about the report:

We are at an all-hands-on-deck moment for young people. The unacceptable reality is that over 55 percent of adolescents and 40 percent of younger children don’t have the support of caring adults in their homes, schools and communities. Adults 50+ represent a large, growing and renewable reservoir of talent and experience, poised and eager to invest in future generations.   How can organizations, communities and society create a plan for making intergenerational connections, building on-ramps and developing ways to harness the natural connections between older and younger people?

She then went on to describe a new initiative by to will bring the generations together and improve the lives of children and youth by mobilizing adults over 50 to stand up and show up for kids.  This program, called Encores4Youth will launch in November. If you would like to become involved, or find out more, go to  to register., is organization dedicated to tapping the skills and experience of those in midlife and beyond to improve communities and the world. One early program, began by Marc Freedman CEO of what is now, is Experience Corps, now part of AARP Foundation.  Experience Corps engages adults 50 and older as literacy tutors for struggling students in public schools. Currently, Experience Corps has 2,000 volunteer members working in schools in 20 cities around the country, primarily as in-class reading tutors for elementary school students in kindergarten through third grade.

You don’t have to wait for the new Encores4Youth roll-out, though, to get involved in your community and fulfill your generativity needs and avoid stagnation. Besides the Experience Corps programs around the country, there are many other opportunities.  Check with your local Senior Center or volunteer clearing house.  Many of them are run by local United Way offices.  Some websites listing volunteer opportunities are:  an AARP service  United We Serve

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