LPN Newsletter - May 2013
Defining Second Adulthood Together (Part 1)
, Ed.D., Chesapeake LPN member
Elizabeth is a faculty member for graduate programs in education and human resource development at Northeastern and George Washington Universities.
Her research interests include the relationship between development and learning, specifically related to identity, generativity,
lifelong learning, and work role transitions at midlife and beyond.
She is the author of a book chapter, "Midlife Work Role Transitions: Generativity and Learning in 21st Century Careers,"
in C. Hoare (Ed.), Handbook of Reciprocal Adult Learning and Development, Oxford University Press (2011).
Elizabeth believes that defining second adulthood requires an intentional and collaborative effort between scholars and practitioners.
She has facilitated two teleconferences,
"Defining Second Adulthood Together, March 2013"
"Are we Ready for Second Adulthood?," June 2012,
with LPN members, the most recent in March, discussing four of the ten life domains
in the LPN Pie of Life. This article focuses on changes related to paid work in the second half of life.
In next month’s newsletter, Elizabeth will focus on unpaid work and lifelong learning.
I recently facilitated a second* Chesapeake LPN teleconference, "Defining Second Adulthood Together,"
and was inspired by participant enthusiasm for this topic.
Our goal was to begin to differentiate this emerging life stage from those that precede and follow and collect preliminary ideas to
help define this 21st century phenomenon.
The ten life domains included on the Life Planning Network’s Planning Wheel provided the focus for our initial exploration.
We discussed four of the domains during our time together and will continue the conversation by moving intentionally around the
Planning Wheel in future teleconferences.
I will report our findings through the LPN Newsletter as we continue this exploration.
The following assumptions grounded our conversation:
- Second adulthood occurs between 50 and 80 years of age and extends middle age, although both environmental and individual variables
(including health and wealth) play a critical role;
- The current focus on individuals at 50+ often trends toward the elderly, a population more recognizable and studied;
- Second adulthood deserves to be explored in its own right, despite the imprecision of its boundaries.
During the teleconference, participants were asked to reflect on personal or professional experiences, or "ah-ha" moments, in specific life
domains that differentiated second adulthood from earlier adulthood and old age. I will focus on our discussion of the domain of Paid Work
for this article.
Participants made it clear that the lens through which they viewed their experiences with paid work began to shift as they moved
into and/or through second adulthood. Key themes emerged from those who shared their stories and included the following:
- Motivation began to shift from working for pay or status (e.g., ego-driven) to work that was motivated more often by a deep commitment or passion to a meaningful focus and/or lifestyle.
- Reflection deepened and began to focus on how paid work might inform both current and future life plans; the notion of taking time for thoughtful reflection to consider one’s future emerged as a higher priority.
- Expression shifted toward taking a more creative focus on how to express oneself more authentically through work (even when the need for income is still a consideration).
- Engagement in work shifted from the need to "add" to a resume or climb a vertical career ladder to thinking of work in more horizontal terms; the need to feel useful (and earn money) was still important
but a growing sense of following one’s own interests/passions and needs began to emerge.
- Liberation needs emerged based on shifting ideas about traditional work structures and stereotypes -
the notion of changing work (even if remaining in the same field) to shed organizational boundaries became a possibility,
along with the potential for redefining what aging "looks" like multiple times as individuals moved through second adulthood
- Joy/Satisfaction gained from paid work began to change focus, from working for things, to working for enjoyment, and a
sense of satisfaction derived from aligning work choices with one’s authentic self.
Next month: Second adulthood generative expression through the life domains of Non-Paid Work and Lifelong Learning.
My sincere thanks to LPN members Nick Head, Candy Spitz, and Lois Tetrick for their ideas and support in the development of this ongoing discussion.
*The first teleconference on this topic, Are We Ready for Second Adulthood, was held on June 6, 2012;
recording can be accessed on the Chesapeake LPN page of the Members Only portion of the website. The March 20 recording is also located there.