This spring, college seniors from all over the country switched over their tassels at the end of their commencement ceremonies — a rite of passage that ushered them into a working world where opportunities abound.

It was a celebratory moment for each student.

At the same time, mature adults moved into retirement communities — a rite of passage enabling them to age well and live fully in ways that weren’t available to them during their working years.

Retirees get to pass their knowledge and wisdom to the people who follow them.

It’s an act called generativity.

Coined by psychoanalyst Erik Erikson, generativity describes the behavior of older adults who nurture future generations and care for the things that will outlast them.

Ways to be generative include:

  • Mentoring and contributing to the next generation
  • Improving the environment so it can sustain future generations
  • Creating art or literature

In Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development, generativity is the opposite of stagnation. People who live generatively feel accomplished and content. Those who don’t may experience emptiness or stagnation.

Philanthropists Hugh and Connie Westfall live in the Park Village neighborhood at VMRC, and they are not standing still.

The couple found joy in giving away things they would no longer need upon moving to the VMRC community. It was satisfying for the Westfalls to know that they were helping young people still early in their journey.

Hear what they have to say about the experience of downsizing.