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  • Diana Schneidman

Have you planned your Third Age?

I have just discovered a wonderful new term that fills a real need in our contemporary lexicon: Third Age.

Definitions vary, but a typical one defines the Third Age as a mature stage of life that is an opportunity for travel, further education, different work opportunities, etc. It serves as a terrific replacement for a more traditional word: retirement.

The word retirement comes from French and means to withdraw, I am told. Traditionally, it means to quit working in old age, but the word doesn’t fit any of my life plans.

Third Age is about looking forward to a new phase of life. Retirement is about withdrawing from life.

As a baby boomer, I foresee working quite a few more years until I can no longer handle it or find another activity that I much prefer. Or I may work part-time, adjusting job choices to declining physical abilities or for less stress. All in all, retirement isn’t anything I think about and it’s a decision in the distant future.

Some people may define retirement as the time when one can claim Social Security benefits , but since it is possible to collect while working, this definition of retirement doesn’t mean much as a lifestyle choice.

Some who have worked all their lives in full-time corporate jobs see retirement as becoming a freelancer or consultant. Or choosing a different full-time job. However, since I’ve been primarily a solopro for years now (and haven’t characterized myself as retired) and have tested many career choices, this concept doesn’t relate to me.

Since I advise people on how to freelance and consult, often following corporate careers, the lifecycle period of Third Age serves my purposes by helping clarify what my work is all about and simplifying the identification of my right people.

And then there are middle-aged people who are unemployed but haven’t given up on finding work. They may want a job but they’re discouraged and have slowed down the hunt. Or they’ve decided to solopro and have done a little marketing but have had no assignments yet.

Are these people retired? I don’t think so although at some point they may permanently give up on getting a job.

I assume the first age is youth and school and the second age is employment (though these phases may not be that clear-cut, one after the other, in recent decades). I like the phrase Third Age because it doesn’t try to pin down a concept that has so many alternatives.

I look for this term to become more popular because it fills a gap in the English language. Regardless of our health, our financial well-being (that is, whether or not we can afford to “retire”), or our life preferences, we will all make Third Age decisions as we age.

Originally posted 5-31-11

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