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Introducing ageing
Introducing ageing

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5 What about the Fourth Age?

Described image
Figure 5

In Activity 7 you are going to begin thinking about the Fourth Age by meeting Molly Davies, who lives quite a different life from Monty Meth.

Activity 7 A day in the life of Molly Davies

Timing: Allow about 30 minutes

Click on the following link to watch Video 3 through twice, as before, and fill in Interactive table 3 to compare Molly’s life with the comments you made about your own and Monty Meth’s in Activity 2. You will see the comments you made about yourself and about Monty previously are filled in below.

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Video 3 Molly’s story
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Interactive table 3
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Here is how one person filled in the table:

Monty MethMolly Davies
Living situationLives with his wife, children have grown up and left home.On her own with paid carers coming in four times a day.
HealthReally good for his age! Goes swimming every morning.Pretty poor. She mentions being in pain at night and whenever she is not in her chair. She cannot see well or hear properly. She has arthritis in her neck. She cannot get herself dressed, washed or fed without help.
Family responsibilitiesDoes not mention any family responsibilities. His wife seems to be as healthy and active as Monty, so she does not seem to need any looking after.Does not mention any.
Paid workDoes not do any paid work.None.
Unpaid workDoes lots, especially through the Enfield Over-50s Forum.None.
Social lifeSeems very friendly with the group of people he swims with every day. Mentions going to the theatre. It seems likely that his work with the Enfield Over-50s Forum has sociable aspects.Not much. A friend sometimes takes her out in a wheelchair and you could see from the card she was writing that she had a visitor named ‘David’ recently. She describes her hairdresser as having become a friend, and goes to the hairdresser about every fortnight.
BusynessSeems very busy – he goes swimming every morning as well as all the other things.Not at all busy.
Satisfaction with lifeSeems very satisfied with his life.She says she loves flowers and enjoys looking at the ones in colours she can still see. She loved reading but finds it hard to do now. She does not seem unhappy with her life, but most of the things she says she likes she cannot really do anymore.

Although Molly is only three years older than Monty, her life looks quite different. Her health is poor, she is in pain a lot of the time, she rarely goes out of the house and she needs quite a lot of help with everyday tasks like getting washed and preparing food. Molly, unlike Monty, does not seem to be in the Third Age. In Laslett’s terms she might be described as in the Fourth Age of decline towards death.

In some situations, it is useful to have a terminology to distinguish between people like Molly and people like Monty. As Laslett argues, it is important not to characterise everyone in the later stages of life as needing extensive support and having serious health issues. However, when you look more closely at the lives of people in the Fourth Age, like Molly, Laslett’s simple description of decline, dependency and decrepitude can seem a bit crude and possibly even a bit insulting to the individuals living those lives.