School of Education


Doctor of Education in Curriculum & Instruction (EdD)


Lucinda Spaulding


Education, Advanced Age Individuals over 62, Doctoral, Persistence, Motivation, Advanced Age


Curriculum and Instruction | Education | Higher Education


The purpose of this phenomenological study is to describe the lived experiences of advanced age individuals 62 years and older who chose to return to academia and pursue doctoral studies in accredited doctoral programs in the United States. The theories that guided this study are the self-determination theory by Deci and Ryan and Erikson’s psychosocial development theory, specifically stage eight, Integrity versus Despair. These two theories framed this study investigating the central research question: What are the experiences of advanced age individuals pursuing a doctoral degree? These advanced age individuals pursued, experienced, and completed doctoral degrees or are in the final dissertation phase at colleges and universities in the eastern region of the U.S. Their lived experiences were collected through interviews, open-ended questions, journals, focus groups, and a letter of advice to advanced age peers who are starting the degree journey. The data analysis began with phenomenological reduction, which included bracketing, horizonalization, organizing invariant qualities and themes, and then constructing into the textural and structural descriptions. Their experiences were integrated into a universal description of group experience, which became the essence. The essence of this phenomenon was the persistence and motivation to finish the degree in spite of fatigue, burnout, and other obstacles in their path.