DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.

Integral Aging: A Holistic, Sustainable Approach to Personal Development for Boomers and Beyond


Integral Aging is a holistic and synergistic approach to life and work for individuals in their third quarter of life. Practitioners have much to offer baby boomers facing transitions and challenges in this stage of life. Through a unique Integral Aging Model and Process, we explore ways to sustain ourselves and empower others. 


The baby boomers are know as the egocentric generation.  Subsequent generations are more aware of the necessity to be ethnocentric, sociaocentric, or globalcentric (Gilligan). In the Integral Aging Process, mid-life and older individuals embark on a journey from egocentric to ethnocentric to worldcentric to beingcentric to pre-personal to personal to transpersonal states (en.wikipedia.org... ).



The aging field is expanding as the baby boomers move into their 60s.  Aging individuals face many issues and challenges that can lead to opportunities for service professionals. Following are some of the issues.

More and more older workers are choosing, or forced to become self-employed or consulting due to downsizing and still needing to make an income. Many older workers have caregiving responsibilities, requiring schedule flexibility. Caregiving often takes a toll on working caregivers' mental and physical health. Whether aging individuals need to earn an income or not, housing often becomes and issue, which is why we often choose new kinds of housing, such as co-housing, downsizing, bringing in roomers, small group housing, work/live and live/work housing, aging-in-place, and many other kinds of living situations.


As we face later-life issues, many aging individuals become more interested in living each day well rather than despartely seeking security in an unsatisfactory job and life. We are searching for meaning and are interested in leaving a legacy that will benefit  our children and future generations. End-of-life issues become important to those who have experienced life-threatening illnesses and deaths.


Roots of Integral Aging

Integral Aging is based on Ken Wilber's Integral Theory. Wilber identifies over two dozen ways of developing one's self (en.wikipedia.org... ).  A key component in Wilber's Integral Theory is sustainability - the capacity to endure, to maintain wellbeing over time. Wilber also explores a sense of timelessness, moving into metaphysical and spiritual consciousness, which can be helpful to individuals experiencing life-threatening or later-life and end-of-life issues.


Integral Aging is more applied, while Wilber is more theoretical. We examine how to practice a holistic way of living. We find that the wellbeing of humans depends of the wellbeing of the natural world and the responsible use of natural resources over time. Sustainability of individuals is interdependent with economic, social, and environmental sustainaibilty over space and time, which includes taking action to insure the sustainability of future generations.


A key component of Integral Aging is assessment of where we are, where we have been, and how we can sustain ourselves and future generations. 


Ways Individuals Can Assess Their Sustainability


Career and adult development educators have developed ways individuals can assess how they are leading their lives and how they might want to change their lives. As noted by Hansen (www.sunnyhansenbornfree.com),  our lifestyle and career development is influenced by our families, our community, and our global community.


For example, Hansen invites individuals to examine the dimensions of their personal identity by drawing a "Pie of Personal Identity" that includes the following factors: Gender, Social Class, Physical Ability & Disability, Sexual Orientation, Religion/Spirituality, Socio-Political/Historical Context, Age, Language, Family, Ethnicity, Race, Culture. Hansen asks the following questions:

  • Have the importance of these factors changed over time?
  • Are they likely to change in the future?
  • What does the total pie say about you?
  • How does it affect your actions?

In his Career AIM Assessment, Reile invites individuals to envision what they would like their lives to be like in each of ten areas over the next several years. He identifies the following career and lifestyle areas:  financial, spiritual, occupational, social, community, family, education, personal, emotional, physical



Keis developed a series of developmental models and assessment tools to assist individuals, families, teams, and organizations to realize their potential and purpose in the emotional, mental, psychological, intellectual, interpersonal, physical, financial, and spiritual areas of life (campus.digication.com... According to Keis, understanding your personal style can provide increased clarity in self-understanding and improved relationships with others.



Integral Aging Model and Process

The Integral Aging Model and Process give individuals an opportunty to explore ways to sustain themselves socially, cognitively, economically, aesthetically, kinesthetically, affectively, musically, spatially, ethically, logically-mathemateically, karmically, physically, and spiritually.


We start by looking at holistic self assessments developed by Hansen, Reile, and Keis. Reile and Keis apply theories and models using paper and pencil or online assessessments.  Integral aging extends Hansen's metaphor of putting the pieces of one's life together like a quilt, by applying a variety of brain-based activities that individuals can do to assess their sustainability. 


Holistic self-assessments include experiential activities to identify one's motivated skills, preferred values, and primary interests (card sorts [Knowdell] and video commentary [Muscat] ); personal style (paper and pencil and multi-sensory cues); family influences (personal narratives, poetry); inner motivations (metaphor); and environmental preferences (guided visualization). Integral Aging explores space and time through physical movement, yogic techniques, and meditation. The Integral Aging multi-sensory identification of strenths is based on Gelardin's Tightrope Model of Decision-Making (campus.digication.com).


In the Integral Aging Process, individuals move from self assessment of strengths to research. Computer research may be the beginning stage of research, but it does not end there. More important is field research, where individuals interact with others and with their environment, i.e., actively speaking with professionals who are involved in the kind of work that interests them, volunteering, apprenticing, browsing books, magazines, taking on part-time work, and participating in activities that appeal to them.  


Those who experience the Integral Aging process  pick up information wherever they go and wherever life is taking them. They digest the information that they absorb, which is often overwhelming at first, and then convert what they find valuable by setting goals or intentions and creating an action plan (Floyd, Knowdell, Krumboltz, Miller-Tiedeman).  To document their process, individuals create a Map and Personal Lifework Portfolio (Gelardin et al, 2010, Gelardin, 2009).


Opportunities for Professionals

Following are examples of work opportunities related to the needs of aging individuals, such as those mentioned above:

  • Later-life career and retirement counseling
  • Family business coaching
  • Short-term transition advising for family caregivers
  • Building working relationships with lawyers, financial planners, move managers, realtors, and other professionals who specialize in elder issues and may appreciate the soft skills of counselors to help with client relations
  • Legacy and end-of-life planning support
  • Identification of strengths and adapting skills, values, etc., to new roles (i.e., caregiving)
  • Supporting clients and modeling integration of body/mind/spirit through techniques such as guided visualization, meditation, breathwork, and yoga
  • Offering workshops on integral aging themes  through employee assistance programs, workforce development programs, libraries, faith-based organizations, local agencies, etc.
  • Designing and marketing career-related products for aging consumers, such as assessment tools for later-life planning

There are many opportunities for professionals to support the aging boomers.  Some opportunities may require continuing education and training. Professionals who are dealing with their own aging process may choose to explore other careers and both paid and volunteer activities that balance what they are currently doing (such as volunteering as a museum docent, teaching digital storytelling, dog-walking, community gardening, creating digital funerals, writing obituaries for animals - the list goes on and on). Others might find that they need to devote more attention to self-care, care for their physical environment or care for their global community (i.e., choose to join the Peace Corp in their sixties).


On a practical level, Integral Aging includes learning and applying virtual and real-time techniques to enhance lifework and later-life planning, breathwork, physical and mental exercise, meditation, and brain-based modalities. Learning occurs in settings that are friendly to older individuals, where they can move around in nature, not just in a classroom.


The learning experience is conducted through both live group interaction and distance delivered modalities. Individuals connect through multimedia with industry experts to expand their knowledge and focus their energies on living and working holistically, developing mind, body, and spirit.  Participants learn how to build an economically and environmentally sustainable practice to benefit themselves, their clients, society, and future generations.

DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.