Home Concepts Adult Development Essay XVII: Moving from Generativity Two to Generativity Three–Returning to Major Life Issues

Essay XVII: Moving from Generativity Two to Generativity Three–Returning to Major Life Issues

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The Transitional Phase: A Second Moratorium

The issue doesn’t stop here. Most mature adults find themselves in mid-life standing between two worlds: the world of active, income-earning work and the world of retirement and avocations. In some respects, our society has given us a second moratorium—a second adolescence during which we can explore alternative identities. As mid-centurions living in the United States or most other prosperous Western countries, we are allowed to explore alternative identities at the point we retire, provided we are not living in poverty or are not in ill health. Traditionally, women living in Western civilizations did not have it so good. They were expected to remain occupied as homemakers even after their husbands retire. Their work might even increase, given that they must now “look after” their husband who is suddenly “underfoot.” Their retired husband was often quite fortunate if he came from the middle or upper-middle class. He could move in many new directions: take up hobbies, spend time at home reading or playing games, or engaging in recreational activities such as golf, tennis or bowling.

The world of retirement has grown a bit more complicated in recent years, and the transition between work and retirement has become more confusing for many men and women; there are several reasons. First, mid-centurions do not necessarily retire at 65. Second, some mid-centurions want to make the transition in life and career earlier than age 65. In either case, the question is: what we do about the second moratorium and how does this potential identity exploration relate to the engagement of Generativity Three and Four roles?

Assume for a moment that we want to make a change prior to age 65 or 70. We are not ready for formal retirement, yet we want to make a change. At the other end of the decision-making spectrum we find men and women who don’t want to or can’t retire by age 70. Even though our inner voices suggest that we shift our priorities and attend to other matters, we still have to work, perhaps even into our late Seventies. If we are in our 50’s or early 60’s, our society expects us to continue being active “breadwinners.”  If we are in our late 60’s or early 70’s, we don’t have enough money saved for retirement. In either case, we face quite a dilemma. Do we have time for generative activities during our 50s, 60s or 70s? Or do we still have to be “working stiffs” who have no time for deep caring outside our immediate family?

We have at least five options, whether we are in our 50s and early 60s or our late 60s and early 70s. Some of us choose the most obvious of these options. We retire after planning carefully for what we will do when we are no longer working for pay. As part of the planning, we will often consider volunteer work that satisfies Generativity Three or Generativity Four motives. There is a second option. We negotiate a compromise by giving some of our voices immediate attention; other voices are deferred until some point later in our life, when society says it is appropriate for us to try something new. A third option is also available to those who have been financially successful in life or are particularly courageous. These fortunate or brave men and women alter their life style so that they are doing what they really want to do.

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