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Generativity as a Path to Wellness

Carrie Steckl earned her Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology with a Minor in Gerontology from Indiana University – Bloomington in 2001. She has spent over ...Read More

Jeremy Bloom could have done nothing after age 30 and still considered himself a success. A three-time World Champion, two-time Olympian, and eleven-time World Cup gold medalist in skiing, Bloom is also a former NFL player. Jeremy had accomplished more by the age of 30 than most could dream of achieving in a lifetime. He could have retired to a comfortable life and no one would have questioned his choice. But he didn’t. In fact – in my opinion – he’s doing even greater things now.

You see, Jeremy loves older people. Just as his grandparents still motivate and inspire him, he sees all elders as sources of inspiration and wisdom. And he wants to give something back to them for all they have given us.

His solution was to start Wish of a Lifetime, a non-profit foundation with the mission of granting lifelong wishes to those age 65 and over. Since 2008, his organization has done amazing things.

For instance, Wish of a Lifetime granted the wish of a couple in their 90s to return to Europe, where they met and fell in love, to renew their wedding vows after 66 years of marriage.

An 81-year-old woman who had been unable to see her sister across the country in years due to health and financial problems was granted her wish to finally see her.

And a 93-year-old librarian with a lifelong wish to skydive was finally able to experience her thrilling dream (tandem, of course).

My point is that Jeremy Bloom has set an important example for all of us. He’s taken his own blessings and turned them into blessings for others. Some may call it giving back. Others may call it paying it forward. Erik Erikson, the developmental psychologist and psychoanalyst, called it generativity.

Interestingly, Erikson conceptualized generativity as a stage of psychosocial development that usually didn’t occur until middle adulthood and that concerned itself with helping to nurture future generations. Over time, this conceptualization has broadened to include giving back to society in such a way that engenders a feeling that one is helping to move the world in a more positive direction.

I think we can safely say that Jeremy Bloom has advanced gracefully into the generativity stage in his life, albeit a little earlier than Erikson would have expected.

Personally, I dig generativity and think it should be a goal for each of us, regardless of our age and life circumstance. I say this because generativity seems to have reciprocal benefits. Not only does helping others feel good to those being helped; it feels good to those doing the helping, too.

You could say that generativity is a graceful path to wellness.

Do you agree? If so, how do you express your generativity? Share your good works here, and thank you for giving back.

Keep Reading By Author Carrie Steckl, Ph.D.
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