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Generativity in a Gerontological Context

Generativity in a Gerontological Context

Recorded On: 05/14/2024

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Erik Erikson is well-known in Psychology for laying out a series of lifespan developmental tasks. His 7th stage, often associated with newfound realizations of human mortality in midlife and beyond, is generativity versus stagnation. Generativity can be defined as concern for establishing and guiding the next generation. An alternative definition, from a biological perspective, is the propensity and willingness to engage in acts that promote the wellbeing of younger generations as a way of ensuring the long-term survival of the species. Examples of being generative include caring for and educating children about life, or pro-active, pro-social engagement that benefits a larger community. Erikson was clear that his definition was much broader than simply raising one’s family and that individuals with different cultural worldviews may manifest generativity differently. How does generativity manifest for us, as gerontologists? Generativity may include teaching, mentoring students, or helping junior scholars “learn the ropes” as they pursue career goals. Multiple forms of generativity have been described including technical, biological and cultural generativity. 

James F. Nelson, PhD, FGSA (Moderator)

Professor, Cellular and Integrative Physiology

Barshop Institute for Longevity and Aging Studies, UT Health San Antonio

James F. Nelson, PhD, Past President and Chair of the Board of Directors of the Gerontological Society of America, is a Professor of Cellular and Integrative Physiology and the Barshop Institute for Longevity and Aging Studies at UT Health San Antonio. Dr. Nelson’s research aims to understand the genetic and physiological basis for aging, using nutritional and pharmacologic interventions. His early work focused on female reproductive aging in mice and humans, with findings that continue to be highly cited. His studies of dietary restriction have identified an important role of hyperadrenocorticism in its anti-aging effects, as well as striking genetic variation in its ability to extend lifespan. For over two decades, he has participated in the National Institute on Aging Interventions Testing Program, which has identified 12 compounds that increase longevity in genetically heterogeneous mice. Many of these compounds are FDA approved for other purposes. His current work, analyzing the enormous lifespan dataset of the ITP, has uncovered striking sex differences in the life-extending efficacy of those drugs, and also in the age-specific mortality of the untreated mice that remarkably parallels that of humans. A major focus is to understand the biological bases for these sex differences in aging and drug efficacy, with the long-term goal of improving the lives of all of us as we grow older.

Susan Bluck , PhD, FGSA

Director, Life Story Lab, Professor, Psychology Department

University of Florida

Susan Bluck is Director of the Life Story Lab and a Fellow of the Gerontological Society of America. She obtained her BA (Psychology) from the University of British Columbia, Canada, her PhD (Social Ecology) from the University of California, Irvine, USA, and did her postdoctoral work at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Germany. She is a lifespan developmental psychologist with an emphasis on adult development, aging, and the end-of-life. Her research examines the ways that individuals use memories of life’s experiences (i.e., remembering, autobiographical reasoning, life stories) to serve adaptive psychosocial functions in their current life context. Her contributions to both theory and measurement development are highly cited. Her empirical work demonstrates memory’s adaptive psychosocial functions: maintaining self-continuity, developing social bonds, and directing future behavior. In her most recent work she is collaborating with health professionals in palliative care to examine the last chapter of the life story - how and why people recall death-related events. This includes research on Dignity Therapy as a life story intervention for end of life. Her theoretical and empirical work appears in such journals as Psychology and Aging, The Gerontologist, Memory and Death Studies.

Jordan P. Lewis, PhD, MSW, FGSA (Aleut)

Professor, Associate Director

University of Minnesota Medical School, Duluth campus

Dr. Jordan P. Lewis, Aleut, from the Native Village of Naknek, is the Associate Director of the Memory Keepers Medical Discovery Team and a Full Professor with the Department of Family Medicine and Biobehavioral Health at the University of Minnesota Medical School, Duluth campus. He is also the Co-Leader of the ADRD Data Sovereignty Advisory Group. Jordan is trained as a cross-cultural community psychologist and social worker, and a credential professional gerontologist. His expertise is in Indigenous successful aging, generativity and healthy aging, and Indigenous constructions of Alzheimer’s Disease and related dementias.

Over the past decade, Dr. Lewis’s research agenda has significantly contributed to the field with community-based research discussions on cultural-specific approaches in Alaska Native (AN) successful aging and Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders (ADRD) among Alaska Native Elders, including the development of a model and measure of Alaska Native successful aging. His research has also developed the concept of indigenous cultural generativity and exploring its role as a critical resilience resource has important implications for the wellbeing of Alaska Native/American Indians/Indigenous peoples, including Elders, dementia caregivers, and family and community members.

Lena Thompson, PhD, MPH

Postdoctoral Fellow, Memory Keepers Medical Discovery Team - Health Equity, Department of Family Medicine & Biobehavioral

University of Minnesota Medical School, Duluth campus

Dr. Lena Thompson conducts research to promote the wellbeing of older adults. Her “We act as one: Intersections between culture and Native Elder disaster management” explored Native Elder perceptions of natural disaster management and practices. Lena is a postdoc with the Alaska Native Successful Aging Project supported by the Memory Keepers Medical Discovery Team at the University of Minnesota Duluth Medical School, and a graduate of the University of Iowa department of Community and Behavioral Health. She lives in Seattle with her partner and small dog.


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