The Demography of the Third Age

By Sorensen, Annemette | Annual Review of Gerontology & Geriatrics, January 1, 2006 | Go to article overview

The Demography of the Third Age


Sorensen, Annemette, Annual Review of Gerontology & Geriatrics


With the publication of A Fresh Map of Life, Peter Laslett (1996) introduced the concept of the Third Age to a wide audience consisting of academics as well as lay people. With it, he pointed to an important change in modern societies brought on by the spectacular increase in longevity and in the accompanying increase in disability-free longevity that occurred during the twentieth century. Laslett used the Third Age to describe a newly emerging phase of life, in which productive activities largely cease or at least change, but in which the majority of people remain healthy and active in many ways. In this volume, the Third Age is defined as consisting of the period between age 65 and 79, with the Fourth Age, characterized by increasing levels of dependence, beginning at age 80. Some individuals have always lived healthy and active lives well beyond the age of 65, but within the last 50 years, a rapid increase has occurred in the likelihood of reaching and living through the Third Age. It was this development that caught the interest of Peter Laslett and many others. From the latter part of the twentieth century, the rich developed countries became societies with a substantial proportion of their population being in the Third Age. The dominance of this group of adults varies somewhat from country to country, depending largely on the level of fertility and immigration, but it is safe to say that at the beginning of the new millennium, a large part of the population in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries were in the Third Age.

The goal of this chapter is to provide a description of the Third Age population in the United States. Two broad questions will be addressed: 1) when and to what extent can the United States be said to be a Third Age society; and 2) who are the people in the Third Age, how and with whom do they live, what are their financial circumstances and what do they do, and how healthy are they? Analyses will be based on national vital statistics and census data. The focus for the first question will be on the period between 1950 and 2000, and for the second question, on the situation in the year 2000.

STRUCTURAL INDICATORS OF THE UNITED STATES AS A THIRD AGE SOCIETY

It is, of course, arbitrary as to when to begin to consider a society a Third Age society. Following Laslett, there should, at a minimum, be a reasonably good chance of reaching the Third Age-that is, of surviving until age 65. Also, the size of the Third Age population should be substantial, either in absolute or proportional terms, so that the sheer size of the young-old population requires society and the elderly to make adjustments to the existence, demands, and needs of this population group. Laslett suggested that adults should have at a least a 50-50 chance of surviving until the Third Age before a society should be considered a Third Age society. Using men's chances of survival until age 70, he found that in England this transition occurred in the middle of the twentieth century. If he had included women in his calculations, the transition would have occurred considerably earlier, because adult women had a 50-50 chance of living until age 70 as far back as 1911 (Laslett, 1996).

For purposes of this chapter, I decided to base the estimate of the Third Age indicator on the mortality experiences of both men and women, seeing little justification for excluding women's survival from consideration, and to use survival until age 65 rather than age 70. As is evident from the figures presented in Table 1.1, American adults 25 or older have had more than a 50-50 chance of surviving until age 65 at least since 1950.1 The first indicator, Laslett's 3AI indicator, provides an estimate of the chance that a 25-year-old will survive until age 65. Based on mortality expectations in 1950, about 71% of adults could expect to do so. This percentage increased steadily during the next 50 years, so that, in 2000, a 25-year-old had an 84% chance of living at least until the beginning of the Third Age. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Demography of the Third Age
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.