Leaving a legacy: Toward a typology

Elizabeth G. Hunter, Graham D. Rowles

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

88 Scopus citations


This article explores the understudied phenomenon of legacy as a component of the aging experience. Against a backdrop of almost exclusive prior focus on transmission of material possessions as the primary form of legacy, the concept is critically examined in developing an expanded, theoretically and empirically grounded perspective. In-depth interviews conducted with 14 adults, ranging in age from 31 to 94 and representing diverse marital, parental and health statuses, reveal multiple dimensions of leaving a legacy in terms of content, creation and transmission. A typology of three distinct but overlapping categories of legacy was identified: biological legacy, material legacy and a legacy of values. Sub-types were identified within each category. Each participant clearly articulated and identified with at least one form of legacy and the majority expressed all three types but with varying degrees of intensity and with the legacy of values viewed as more important than other forms of legacy The findings suggest the need and potential for developing deeper insight into a component of the aging experience that may assume particular significance toward the end of life.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)327-347
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Aging Studies
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2005

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Research for this article was supported by a grant from the Positive Psychology Consortium of the University of Pennsylvania.


  • Cancer
  • Divestiture
  • End of life
  • Human development
  • Legacy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Issues, ethics and legal aspects
  • Health Policy


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