I’m a Third Age Blogger
Why this blog? I wanted to keep a record of my personal and professional transition from mid to late career. My late career could conceivably extend into my 80s or 90s. If that sounds strange to you, know that it sounds very weird to me too. However, I’m self-employed. Career, work, social and leisure are all rolled into one thing. I’m passionately engaged with my work and I just can’t see ever wanting giving that up. When it comes to aging, I consider myself my own case study.
And let’s face it. Even if we don’t like the term “old age” we’re all aging. The work we are doing right now to fight ageism will help the next generations. Me, my friends and colleagues are becoming the very different generation of seniors. Our Gen X “kids” have reached middle age. What does that mean? How does that feel? How do I educate myself for the journey ahead of me? What are the developmental stages involved? What are my options? What is my legacy? What is the new role of grandmothers in their families? I explore many of these thoughts and feelings with others in my networks. I’ll be blogging, making creative art journals and producing videos as I go along. This is a highly creative age for me and I haven’t peaked yet. My most productive and creative years are still ahead of me! That’s my best guess ~ and I choose to believe it.
The Third Age
The end of midlife marks the beginning of what is known as “the Third Age”. Third Age is an emerging concept made possible by our longer life expectancy that allows for a perceived life bonus of an identified active and healthy “life stage” of 30 years. This was not recognized or documented by previous generations. The Third Age is now viewed as an important developmental period after mid-life that can significantly add to a life well-lived if regarded as an important stage of adult growth and development. It is now recognized by the World Health Organization in the Life Course Approach to Health.
With traditional lines blurring and with an extended period of healthy active years after mid-life, paid or unpaid work may or may not play an important role in daily life. Those with adequate retirement funds may choose to volunteer their experience and services. Others may need or choose to seek full-time, part-time, seasonal or occasional employment. During my own transition, I’ll encounter some or most of the complexities involved with meeting the needs of an aging population. This blog provides me with an opportunity to express myself – to think out loud and reflect on my own ideas as weeks and months go by. A number of my friends and colleagues are going through a similar transition. We do have role models. My friend, Audrey is 91 and she still works everyday in her art gallery. She’s feisty, funny, engaged and appropriately irreverent.
Ethnography is the study of social interactions, behaviours, and perceptions that occur within groups, teams, organisations, and communities. This redefinition of aging can be viewed as a process that extends over time allows us to explore and record behaviours, ideas and options together. My work will examine the influences of later-life friendships and creative engagement on the health and well-being of aging women living alone. Using my handy/dandy Ethnographer’s Toolkit, this blog provides an added opportunity to report or explore narrative research, phenomenology, grounded theory, ethnography and some non-scientific case studies.
With millions of baby boomers entering their third act of life, the global Age Friendly Cities and Communities movement exists to promote meaningful opportunities for the full social and cultural engagement of older adults. Pat Spadafora, former Director of the Sheridan Centre for Elder Research, observes that we are “freeing ourselves of limiting beliefs about aging and embracing the reality that individuals continue to grow, learn, and contribute to their communities throughout the life journey.”
In 1993, I was appointed to Mayor’s Honour Roll for the Arts in the City of London Ontario. My company was nominated for a Tourism London Spirit of Excellence Award in the late 1990’s. In 2010, I was pleased to serve as the founding co-chair of the London Age Friendly Network and presently serve as the co-chair of the Housing Working Group. London Ontario is the first city in Canada to receive the World Health Organization Age Friendly City designation and join the Global Network. The London Council for Adult Education completely surprised me with an Adult Educator recognition in 2015. In 2016, I was honoured to receive the Ontario Achievement Award from the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario. My nomination was submitted by the City of London, Age Friendly London Network with supportive referrals by current clients and colleagues.
Kathy Smith, London Ontario Canada