Beyond death: Inheriting the past and giving to the future, transmitting the legacy of one's self

Elizabeth G. Hunter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


This study explores the phenomenon of legacy as a component of the aging experience among women. Against a backdrop of 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 with 38 women, 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. Through the stories of the participants in this study, legacy emerges as a means of passing on the essence of one's self, in particular one's values and beliefs. Legacy is a method of leaving something behind after death and making meaning of the end of life. The desire to leave alegacy it manifest in many different ways dependent on the individual and their culture. While the idea of legacy is often couched in terms of material possessions, it appears that passing on values and beliefs is more important to older adults.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)313-329
Number of pages17
JournalOmega: Journal of Death and Dying
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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