In 2011 Mary Catherine Bateson, the daughter of Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson, published the book Composing a Further Life where she proposed a new stage in Erik Erikson’s adult psychosocial development model that she called “Active Wisdom”.
This new stage sits between the Eriskson's original mid-life time of Generativity and of Old Age. Mary Catherine suggests that this stage arises now because of the healthy longevity of the baby boomer generation.
Mary Catherine describes the “virtue” of Active Wisdom as being about sharing insight gained from rich life experience, combined with new levels of experimenting, travel, study, and a refreshed interest in giving back to others. The “vulnerability” of this stage can be an attendant loss of identity that leads us to withdraw rather than whole -heartedly engage with new possibilities.
Active Wisdom, as a stage in one’s life, brings with it a time of new freedom and new creativity. It often brings with it a search for increased meaning in our life, a desire to share our the expertise gained, and a heartfelt consideration of the legacy that we wish to leave.
It can be a time of deep reflection on what one might have hoped to do but, also, to explore what it is not too late to do.