Later-Life Crisis: Towards a Holistic Model

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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.




Robinson, O. C., & Stell, A. J. (2015). Later-Life Crisis: Towards a Holistic Model. Journal of Adult Development, 22(1), 38–49.

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