Later-Life Crisis: Towards a Holistic Model

Abstract

Crisis episodes have been most commonly associated with midlife, and correspondingly research on crisis after midlife is marked by its absence. Here, we report findings from a retrospective interview-based study of 21 adults about crises occurring between the ages of 60 and 69, in the first attempt to explore the holistic structure, process and experiential contents of later-life crisis. Basing our analysis on existing models of late-adult development, four key areas of later-life crisis were explored as follows: (1) life events and relationships, (2) self and identity, (3) motivation and goals and (4) cognition and affect. We were able to define a provisional common holistic process to later-life crisis episodes, shared by all participants, which included multiple loss-inducing stressful life events that provide a cumulative challenge to coping resources, a struggle with ego integrity, increased mortality awareness and the re-scaling of goals, activities and roles in ways that pertain to re-engagement, continuity or disengagement. Findings are discussed in relation to theories of adult development in later life, while strategies are proposed for future research on this understudied area.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    The concise nature of a journal article means that qualitative findings and example quotes must be reported selectively. This is inevitable given that the interview transcript data upon which this article is based included over 100,000 words in total. We encourage the reader who would like a more comprehensive view of the analysis to contact the corresponding author for the complete Excel table of themes and all supporting quotes.

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Correspondence to Oliver C. Robinson.

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Robinson, O.C., Stell, A.J. Later-Life Crisis: Towards a Holistic Model. J Adult Dev 22, 38–49 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10804-014-9199-5

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Keywords

  • Crisis
  • Later life
  • Retirement
  • Ego integrity
  • Third Age
  • Disengagement
  • Qualitative