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Growth & Development

  Late Adulthood
- The Social Convoy -

Growth & Development

Ψ  Social Convoy: collectively, the family members, friends, acquaintances & even strangers who move through life with an individual.

    The "big" convoys (generational stereotypes & defining work characteristics):
•  Traditionalists  (1925 -1945)   Practical, patient, loyal & hardworking, respectful of authority, rule followers
•  Baby boomers  (1946 - 1960)   Optimistic, use teamwork & cooperation, ambitious, workaholics
•  Generation X  (1961 - 1980)   Skeptical, self-reliant, risk-taking, balanced work & personal life
•  Millennials  (1981 - present) -   Hopeful, want meaningful work, diversity & change valued, technology savvy

Ψ  Long-term marriages

•  Most elders are married and they tend to be healthier, wealthier and happier than those who never married, or who are divorced or widowed.
•  While the absolute levels of conflict, sexual activity and emotional intensity drop over time, couples who start out high or low on any dimensions tend to remain so as time goes by.


•  Women are widowed more often than men.
•  The average adult woman lives longer than the average man, the average husband is older than his wife, the average American wife will eventually spend 6 years as a widow.
•  In terms of physical & emotional adjustment, women generally have an easier time coping with the loss of a spouse than do men.

It's a Mickey Mouse World , isn't it?

The Never Married & the Divorced

  • Of those currently over age 64 in the U.S., only 4.4 percent have never married, making this the most married cohort in history.
  • The never married are content with their independence, more likely to have extensive, alternate social networks and sometimes have long-time companions.
  • Divorce is very rare in later life, except with recent marriages.
  • Differences between divorced males and females (females fare better)


  • In older adults, the quality of friendships is more important than quantity.
  • For men, friends are equally likely to be male/female; for females friends are same sex.
  • For successful aging, people must not allow themselves to become socially isolated, because a secure social network is a buffer against almost any problem.
  • Older people’s satisfaction with life bears relatively little relationship to their contact with younger members of their own family, but correlates significantly with the quantity and quality of their contact with friends.

Younger Generations

  • Beanpole family: consists of more generations than in the past, but with only a few members in each generation.
  • A family can be very supportive or very independent, with either pattern welcomed in some families and resented in others.
  • Contrary to popular perceptions, assistance typically flows from the older generation to the younger.
  • The price of intergenerational harmony may be intergenerational distance.

Younger Generations & Family Ties

  • Assistance arises both from need and from the ability to provide it.
  • Generally the mother daughter relationship is simultaneously close and vulnerable.
  • In-person contact depends mostly on geographical proximity; however, increased communication capability via the internet changes this somewhat.
  • Affection is strongly influenced by a family's past history of mutual love and respect.
  • Sons feel stronger obligation. while daughters feel stronger affection.
  • Cultures & families vary markedly: there is no agreed upon "right" way for the generations to interface.

Growth & Development
Robert C. Gates

Forty is the old age of youth; fifty the youth of old age. -- Victor Hugo