Date of Completion


Embargo Period



Adult Learning, Coping, Gerontology, Adaptive Change, Transitional Learning, Sustainability, Human Development

Major Advisor

Dr. Alexandra (Sandy) Bell

Associate Advisor

Dr. Robin Grenier

Associate Advisor

Dr. Marijke Kehrhahn

Associate Advisor

Dr. Laura Donorfio

Field of Study

Adult Learning


Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Open Access


Since the 2007-08 global financial crisis, older, professional men have suffered their fair share of job losses (i.e., “mancession”). Involuntary job loss presents a challenging life transition that requires coping skills, and learning through the uncertainties of later-life job loss is a major part of the coping process. The challenge for facilitators of adult learning is to understand how these men learn from and through this life transition, and what types of learning experiences relate to adaptive coping.

The conceptual framework for this phenomenological study was developed by synthesizing research literature on coping and job loss. This framework informed the interview protocols for the study, which was guided by the following research questions: What is the meaning that older, professional men make in coping with involuntary job loss? How do older, professional men cope with involuntary job loss? What roles does learning play in their coping with this unanticipated life transition?

Interviews with ten participants revealed that older, professional men who coped adaptively with involuntary job loss: a) came to see their newly acquired time as an asset that helped them think creatively and create value differently; b) focused their attention on aspects of their circumstances that they could control to help them remain optimistic about the future; c) came to understand their disrupted lives were open to restorying, as they envisioned “future chapters” in their lives could be written; and d) surrendered to the limits of “rugged individualism” in their quest to move forward with their lives, instead embracing a “rugged interdependence” as they learned from—and remained accountable to—others coping with the same life transition. In sum, older, professional men who coped adaptively with involuntary job loss demonstrated an adaptive mindset—one characterized by creativity, curiosity, and connectivity—that promoted “positive thinking,” a developmentally complex, nuanced way of meaning making conducive to learning through uncertainty.

Recommendations address ways to help older, professional men self-regulate their time and emotions in ways that promote cognitive well-being and, hence, meaning making during this unanticipated life transition.