Chronic Illness and generativity in late life: A case study

Susan M. Hannum, Helen K. Black, Robert L. Rubinstein, Kate De Medeiros, Barbara J. Bowers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Purpose of the Study: This article presents a narrative-based case study about chronic illness and genetic uncertainty and their relationship to generativity throughout the life course. Our focus is a woman who experienced vision loss early in life and interpreted its impact on her generativity through present-day biographical rescripting. Design and Methods: The case we present was chosen from the study "Generativity and Lifestyles of Older Women," which explored life history, social relations, and forms of generativity in an ethnographic interview format with 200 older women. Results: In constructing a present-day identity, the informant used shifting and conflicted self-constructions to produce a self-image as generative. Three critical themes emerged in understanding her life course: (a) retrospective interpretations of autonomy; (b) renegotiating control in the present, and (c) generativity across the life course. Implications: This article contributes an understanding of childlessness as observed through the lenses of chronic illness, autonomy, and generativity. We conclude that a history of chronic illness, as it is co-occurring with internal debates about the meaning of key life events, may influence older adults' present-day identity. Implications for later life care needs are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)171-178
Number of pages8
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2017


  • Autonomy
  • Childlessness
  • Chronic illness
  • Generativity
  • Narrative
  • Older women

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gerontology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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