“Hey Tom, have you heard of the phrase, “Three Score and Ten”?
“Yes Dave, it’s the Biblical phrase for the span of life.”
“Ha, ha Tom, we’ve got them there, we’re both way past 70!”
“People are living longer now, life span now could be 15 or 20 years past retirement. It’s called the Third Age.”
“Yes Tom, those extra years are a sort of temporary release from mortality.
I love that phrase “release from mortality”.
But instead of rejoicing in thinking what we’re going to do with our extra time, we have turned it into a “fear topic”. Everyone is aging. People are living longer.
Is this a problem?”
“Well Dave, the fear of an increasing older population is that it is seen as a burden on society because resources have to be found to support an aging population.”
“I think we need some definitions here to clear the air.
First Stage of Life—childhood, the era of dependence, immaturity and education.
Second Stage—adulthood, the era of independence, maturity, making a living.
THE THIRD AGE—65+, the era after retirement, personal fulfillment.
The fourth age—the era of final dependence, frailty and death.”
I continued: So, after productive, paid work is finished, society seems to consign elderly people to LIMBO, the condition of oblivion, a place for forgotten and unwanted things.”
“That’s a sad statement, Dave.”
“Yes it is, Tom, but that attitude still prevails. Anything opposite to work is regarded as indolence, avoidance of activity or exertion.’
“So, what’s the answer, Dave?’
“You need hobbies and interests in retirement also some educational opportunities. You need some intellectual development and stimulation.
The inclination to learn continues all through life.”
“That’s right, Tom, that’s why the University of the Third Age was born.
Members want to learn and they can teach as well. There is no division between teacher and the taught: there are no staff and no students, only members. I’ve taken several courses myself and am in a discussion group at present.”
“Tom, I’m going to describe the lives of two oldies, Andy and Annie.
This will show you the stark difference between the Third and Fourth Ages.
Andy, age 87…
He starts his day at the Leisure Centre which means getting up at 5:30. He leaves about 6 and drives to the Centre.
He likes to start the morning with a swim, because it stimulates his brain and gets him thinking.
There’s other pensioners there which provides him with social contact.
He finds dunking himself in water wakes him up and he thinks about what he should be doing that day—emailing, writing, etc.
He’s back home at 7:30 and Betty, his wife, has his breakfast ready.
He then pops into the garden to see that everything is okay.
He deadheads some flowers otherwise new growth won’t come.
He then goes to his office and works on his computer. He writes a monthly column for a local newsletter
He and his wife are quite strong mentally and they never sat back and wondered what they were going to do that day.
He paces himself because he gets tired and then he has a rest.
He goes to bed at 10 PM.
Even though Andy is presumably coming to the end of his life, he is far from being a burden on health and social services as the newspaper headlines state.
He is in the THIRD AGE.
Annie, age 88…
She has had her left hip done. The right hip is going but the doctor won’t let her have it done because she might have a stroke. So she has to put up with it.
Apart from the hip being bad her legs are giving out. She is in pain and is allowed eight pain killers a day.
She sits in her chair most of the day. She doesn’t feel the pain while sitting.
But when she gets up she hardly can walk.
She still reads big print books with a magnifying glass.
She used to have a scooter to get out and about but then things got worse and she couldn’t get it out of the house.
So she is now confined to the house.
She has carers to get her up for breakfast and later a carer gets her a cooked meal. Her sister does her shopping. A carer puts her to bed.
Although Annie is only one year older than Andy her life is quite different. Her health is poor, she is in pain a lot and she rarely goes out of the house. She needs a lot of help
Annie is in the FOURTH AGE.”
“So, Dave, we’ve made it clear that ageing is not simply about decline, dependency and difficulty, it’s also about personal development and living a satisfying life as well.”
“That’s right, Tom, I guess you could say The Third Age is considered to be the “golden years” of adulthood.”
We both pondered on what we had discussed.
“I’ve been thinking, during our discussion, that The Third Age is sort of a paradox, a point in time when older adults experience life and themselves more positively even though cognitive functions undergo slow deterioration and they have aches and pains.”
“There are people that jump back and forth between the Third and Fourth ages.
If someone who was sick gets better they can come back into the Third Age for a while.”
“Tom, in conclusion, I will say:
The patterns of life have changed since people have been living longer.
Lets hope we can stay in the Third Age for a long time.”
With that, Tom and Dave walked out into the sunshine ready to face their future
NO MATTER WHAT!
Also published on Medium.