Challenges of the Third Age: Meaning and Purpose in Later Life

Challenges of the Third Age: Meaning and Purpose in Later Life

Challenges of the Third Age: Meaning and Purpose in Later Life

Challenges of the Third Age: Meaning and Purpose in Later Life

Synopsis

The newly retired are entering a time of life that is virtually uncharted, a time in which they are free from social expectations and, to a large extent, from obligations to others. Life's meanings are no longer provided by work and family. Instead, men and women have the freedom, and the need, to find new activities that they can imbue with meaning. The term, "Third Age" has been given to this time of life during which for most there is relatively good health, financial stability, and reduced family obligations. The problems and possibilities of this "Third Age" serve as the material for this book. How do older people decide how to deploy their continued vitality, now that they are free from the demands of work and children? How do they find meaning in daily life? In this book, scholars from several disciplines consider the way in which meaning can be found in this important stage of later life. They discuss sociological, psychological, and religious determinants of responses to the challenges of finding meaningful activity after retirement.

Excerpt

The post-retirement years are, for many, a time when there is no longer responsibility for childcare nor need for paid employment, the two obligations that would have structured much of preceding life. Many in these retirement years have available to them pensions and savings adequate to maintain middle income styles of life and, in addition, health and energy not much diminished from their later years of employment. Their freedom and resources permit them to enter into any of a very wide range of activities. To an extent remarkable outside the realm of the very rich, they can fashion lives to suit themselves.

The life phase in which there is no longer employment and childraising to commandeer time, and before morbidity enters to limit activity and mortality brings everything to a close, has been called the Third Age. Those in this phase of life have passed through a first age of youth, when they prepared for the activities of maturity, and a second age of maturity, when their lives were given to those activities, and have reached a third age in which they can, within fairly wide limits, live their lives as they please, before being overtaken by a fourth age of decline.

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