Robert S. Weiss and Scott A. Bass
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.