Characterising the Third Age
You may already have thought of some objections to Laslett’s argument – is having a Third Age a lot to do with how much money you have got and how healthy you are, for example? What about people with disabilities or long-term conditions? Is this way of dividing up the life course a bit dismissive of people in the Fourth Age? These kinds of reactions are an important part of developing an academic critique. For the moment, just make a note of any disagreements or objections you might have to Laslett’s argument – we will return to these later.
So how does Laslett’s theory help explain Monty’s experiences? In Activity 4 you will think about this.
Activity 4 Monty’s Third Age
Third Age - (a)
If you need to, go back to Activity 2 and watch Video 1 again to remind yourself about Monty’s experiences. Then answer the following questions:
- a.What examples in Monty’s life seem to fit Laslett’s characterisation of the Third Age?
Monty is very active and enjoys good health. He is certainly contributing to society through his work for the Enfield Over-50s Forum. He also seems to find his various activities rewarding and fulfilling. He does not seem to be in a period of his life characterised by decline and difficulty. Rather, he seems to be enjoying a full and varied life without the responsibilities of working or caring for family members that he had earlier in his life. Laslett argues that chronological age has very little to do with whether someone is in the Third Age or not, so Monty’s age does not preclude characterising him as being in the Third Age.
Third Age - (b)
- b.What factors do you think might have contributed to Monty’s long Third Age?
We do not know definitively why Monty’s Third Age has lasted so long but it seems likely that his good health, regular exercise, relative affluence, apparently happy family situation and his own personality have all contributed.
You may agree that the Third Age seems to be quite a good description for the experiences of some individuals – perhaps you yourself if you are ‘in later life’, or other people you know, as well as Monty. But how typical are these individuals? Laslett was writing in 1989. Do his claims that most people can now expect to experience a Third Age hold up more than 25 years later? These are some of the issues that the next section explores.