3 Introducing ‘the Third Age’
Peter Laslett (1915−2001) was an academic with wide-ranging interests including social history, politics and ageing. He was one of the founders of the University of the Third Age (U3A) (and also helped to establish The Open University). In 1989 he published a very influential book called A Fresh Map of Life: The Emergence of the Third Age (Laslett, 1989a), which you will look at in more detail in Activity 3.
Activity 3 A fresh map of life
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As Laslett himself acknowledges, there have always been some healthy and active people in their 70s, 80s and even older. But Laslett is arguing that this is now so common that we need to rethink our expectations about what is likely to happen over the course of someone’s life. Instead of thinking of life as falling into three main stages – childhood, adulthood and old age – we need to think of four. Rather than seeing healthy, active older people as exceptional, we need to recognise that many people can reasonably anticipate years of fulfilling life after they have finished paid work and any children have left home.