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

Deep Caring XXIX: Generativity Four— Generativity or Stagnation?

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Perhaps it is a lack of connections in the community. Many senior men and women moved to Grass Valley or Nevada City in recent years and don’t yet know many people. They are on the outside of the core community looking in, and no one has asked them to participate in a volunteer activity. Or they may feel that what they must contribute to their new community won’t be valued. In other instances, new arrivals have moved into gated communities where they get into a year-in-and-year-out routine of playing bridge all day and watching a bit of TV before falling asleep.

Their friendship network becomes limited to other residents in the gated community who share the same values and hold dear the same life priorities. So, their lives outside this community become limited to shopping, banking, and attending the occasional theatrical or musical performance. While these potential Sage leaders do have a “community” it is highly restricted, as we noted in Chapter Five, lacking in diversity or much soul-feeding attraction—at least from the perspective of the Senior Sage leaders whom we interviewed. It should not be surprising that this lifestyle can become numbing and lead to stagnation and despair as the aging process unfolds.

Life Experiences and Priorities

Another factor might be life experiences. Potential civic leaders may never have had the kind of challenges and support in their lives that motivate them to want to give back to others. They declare, “I don’t do that,” and set aside any possibility that they will taste the benefits of civic involvement during their senior years. In some instances, these seniors have “grown up” in corporate culture and don’t want to start over in learning how to work and be influential in the culture of nonprofit organizations.

They had clear status in the corporate world, but this doesn’t translate to the nonprofit world of volunteers unless it is earned. Often these seniors may not have had a history of public service in their own families of origin. That might make sense if it were not for the fact that many of the project’s Senior Sage leaders also had no tradition of civic engagement in their early lives; their parents were farmers who lived a long way from town, or they grew-up in economically challenged families that had no discretionary time for anything but income-generating work. Somehow these Senior Sage leaders learned the value of civic engagement without having had parental role models. It is interesting to muse about why and how these men and women discovered the benefits of voluntary service to their community.

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