Older people’s realisation of generativity in a changing society : the case of Hong Kong

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Journal article

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Ageing and Society

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generativity, agency, communion, social changes, elderly, Chinese


Generativity refers to activities that help to establish and guide the next generation. This paper explores the nature of generative concern among older people and how it manifests itself in an era of rapid social and technological changes that have produced wide generation gaps. Eight focus groups were conducted with 51 women and 20 men who were recruited from social centres in Hong Kong on the basis of age, socio-economic status, and level of participation in the centres. The discussions were transcribed verbatim and analysed using grounded-theory principles. The elders frequently referred to the superior educational level and technological knowledge of their offspring, as well as the differences in values and lifestyles between the generations, which they thought had made their own knowledge and wisdom obsolete. They had concerns about social and technological changes, however, and they aroused a sense of urgency to protect the younger generation from contemporary evils, while many considered that passing on moral and behavioural codes nowadays was the most important generative role. Although they wanted to help, their efforts were often criticised. In order to maintain harmonious relationships and to avoid conflicts with their offspring, many participants adopted passive generative roles. Attempts to stabilise the generative self by redefining generativity were also observed. The final section of the paper discusses the implications of the findings for the maintenance of the generative self in personal situations of declining resources.



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Cheng, S. T., Chan, W., & Chan, A. C. M. (2008). Older people’s realisation of generativity in a changing society: The case of Hong Kong. Ageing and Society, 28(5), 609-627. doi: 10.1017/S0144686X07006903