By: Gloria Nam, MSW Intern
A common misconception that children may have about adults is that adults have their lives “all
figured out” and know all the answers to life. The reality is that development and learning does
not stop when we reach adulthood, but rather continues until the last moment of our lives.
This reality is called lifespan developmental theory, which is the belief that development is not
just influenced by current events and circumstances, but also by the events and circumstances
from previous major stages in life.
Why is Lifespan Developmental Theory important?
One unique aspect of lifespan developmental theory is the interdisciplinary perspectives that are
all combined to help inform the development of an individual. Biological, physiological,
psychological, and social factors are all considered to determine what happens in each stage of
life. One of the most popular developmental theories is Erikson’s Stages of Development, where
psychologist Erik Erikson created eight stages that describe the main impact of social
experiences across the whole lifespan. Erikson was particularly interested in how social
interaction and relationships played a role in the development of individuals.
Erikson’s eight stages of development include – 1. Infancy, 2. Early Childhood, 3. Preschool, 4.
School Age, 5. Adolescence, 6. Young Adulthood, 7. Middle Adulthood, and 8. Maturity. In
each stage, a conflict is identified to be the turning point and Erikson believed that the
experience people have with the conflict determines whether or not they develop or learn a
certain quality. The last stage, Maturity, is the stage where older adults have a time of selfreflection, and the result is either integrity or despair. As older adults reflect back on their life
and accomplishments, they can either feel satisfied or regretful.
Lifespan Developmental Theory in Senior Centers
Erikson’s Stages of Development highlights the importance of social relationships and how they
shape personality and growth in each stage of life. Intergenerational interaction is essential to
both the younger generation and older adult population. The younger generation needs the
guidance, while older adults have the opportunity to learn new skills and reduce the likelihood of
depression and loneliness. There is a great need for more intergenerational activities and
programs at senior centers, where children and students can share their skills or learn about how
to achieve goals, and members can share their knowledge or experience cognitive stimulation
while learning new skills.
Being aware of Erikson’s last stage of development is important as senior centers can be mindful
of the different types of journeys everyone is going through. Providing a space for older adults
to explore new creative ways in which they are “repurposing” their skills or “reapplying”
their wisdom to new contexts, will allow them to fulfill the last stage. The hope is to not leave
anyone in despair, but to encourage a sense of fulfillment.
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Prvulovic, T. (2022, May 16). Intergenerational relationships – benefits and importance. Second
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UKEssays. (November 2018). Lifespan Perspective in Social Work Practice: Advantages and
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