Home Concepts Adult Development Deep Caring XXIX: Generativity Four— Generativity or Stagnation?

Deep Caring XXIX: Generativity Four— Generativity or Stagnation?

6 min read

William Bergquist and Gary Quehl

[Note: The complete book (Caring Deeply: Engaging the Four Roles of Life-Fulfilling Generativity) is available for purchase. Use the following link:  Caring Deeply.]

We conclude our exploration of civic engagement and Generativity Four by turning once again to the fundamental choice that Erik Erikson first identified when describing the stages of adult development: generativity or stagnation? Virtually all our Senior Sages know persons in the community who possess sage leadership qualities but are far removed from being civically engaged. Senior Sages describe them as affable, generous, and knowledgeable persons but voice frustration in not being able to motivate them: “So why can’t I get them involved? Why don’t they readily recognize the personal benefits that can come from civic engagement? Why don’t they perk-up when I say that my soul is being fed by the volunteer work I am doing?  I care about these people and know that civic engagement can offer a wonderful path to renewed physical, mental and even spiritual health.” Senior Sages wish they had answers to these questions and speculate about possible reasons for non-engagement.

Fear and Isolation

For some, it is about fear. Fear of putting themselves out there in a civic organization and getting stuck in a mess of complex, all-consuming challenges. Fear of being asked to do something they feel they can’t do, either because of time constraints or lack of direct experience. Perhaps they are tired and find relief in getting away from the politics in which they once worked and often served as leaders for many years. It is reasonable to ask, then, why anyone would want to get drawn back into this milieu when they can be with their friends or plant flowers in solitude: “If I get involved and my commitment grows too large, how do I get out of it and reclaim my personal life?” “It is much easier to find friendships in leisure time activities than build them through civic networks.” “If I am not making money, why would I do it? Why would I do the same thing again, but this time for free?” It is understandable that uninvolved seniors may judge civic work to involve sacrifice if they can’t see personal or community benefits. Unfortunately, they don’t or can’t yet understand that civic involvement is a different kind of work that has its own rewards.

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