Welcome to the Third Age Video
In 1990, the lifespan of the average person was 47 years old. Most people lived and worked on farms, although a migration was started towards cities and factory jobs. At the turn of the twentieth century, you were considered an adult by the beginning of your teen years. You had learned enough to contribute and went to work. Whether on you earned a living on a farm or a factory, you worked until you either died or were too infirmed to contribute.
As the lifespan of the average person has expanded, so have the phases we go through. The learning phase has expanded to the twenties. People no longer have to work until they die. The formation of the third age at the end of the twentieth allows the retired senior an opportunity to explore and discover a purpose in life they never realized was available.
First Age: The age of preparation and learning. This is the time when children learn the skills and independence necessary to survive in the adult world. It is the time when interests are explored, skills identified and values established. The questions asked and hopefully answered is, “Who am I and how do I fit into the world?”
Second Age: The age of achievement. Second age is when people fulfill their biological destiny. Individual focus is largely on the external world. This is the time when adults come together to establish homes and families. They become responsible members of their society, making their contribution to the world. Second age is defined largely by the roles people have; worker, spouse, parent, and homemaker. How dependent one is on these roles may determine difficulty in moving to Third Age. For example, if a person sees themselves primarily as a parent, when children are no longer around, the person’s sense of identity may be lost.
Third Age: The age of fulfillment. A shift occurs from the external to the internal as the roles in family and society change. Third age begins whenever the opinions of the external world become less important and we begin to ask questions about the purpose to life and what really matters to us. In the last fifty years, Third Age has come to be viewed as a potentially hedonistic time, when one’s Second Age obligations are largely complete, and what is left is non stop enjoyment in playgrounds designed for adult living. This is because Third Age has largely been defined by its lack of roles. The baby boomers are recognizing that twenty to thirty years of play may not be the most rewarding life and are exploring other options. Third age is no longer considered a brief interlude between being productive and dying. Third Age is now viewed as an important developmental period that can significantly add to a life well lived if approached as an important period of growth and development.
Second Age has also become the age of acquisition. For many people, success is measured by what they can acquire. Acquisitions are not only the physical, but may also include titles, rank and status. Doing becomes the means to the end of having. Third Age presents an opportunity where doing becomes an expression of being. When the responsibility to society is largely complete, individuals can look within to discover and express a renewed sense of life’s purpose and passion. This is what Maslow means by self-actualization.
Third Age is no longer viewed as a time of decline, but one of renewal. Unfortunately, many of the words associated with being over 50, such as retirement and senior are oversimplifications of a rich, but complex reality that are often viewed as barriers to change. The often held beliefs that Third Age is either a time spent in unrelenting leisure or rocking aimlessly on the front porch are equally inaccurate and damaging.
Fourth Age: The Age of Completion for the elderly. This last stage of life on Earth allows us to prepare fully for whatever we believe comes next for the aging elderly. Growing to our full potential in Third Age allows us enter fully into this completion.