The Third Chapter: Passion, Risk, and Adventure in the 25 Years After 50
The Third Chapter: Passion, Risk, and Adventure in the 25 Years After 50

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In the twenty-first century, a developmental phase of life is emerging as significant and distinct, capturing our interest, engaging our curiosity, and expanding our understanding of human potential and development. Demographers talk about this new chapter in life as characterized by people—between fifty and seventy-five—who are considered “neither young nor old.” In our “third chapters” we are beginning to redefine our views about the casualties and opportunities of aging; we are challenging cultural definitions of strength, maturity, power, and sexiness.

This is a chapter in life when the traditional norms, rules, and rituals of our careers seem less encompassing and restrictive; when many women and men seem to be embracing new challenges and searching for greater meaning in life.

In The Third Chapter, the renowned sociologist Dr. Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot offers a strong counterpoint to the murky ambivalence that shrouds our clear view of people in their third chapters. She challenges the still prevailing and anachronistic images of aging by documenting and revealing the ways in which the years between fifty and seventy-five may, in fact, be the most transformative and generative time in our lives, tracing the ways in which wisdom, experience, and new learning inspire individual growth and cultural transformation. The women and men whose voices fill the pages of The Third Chapter tell passionate and poignant stories of risk and vulnerability, failure and resilience, challenge and mastery, experimentation and improvisation, and insight and new learning.

Customer Reviews:

  • Personal Stories From the Third Chapter of Life
    The Third Chapter looks at the stage of life from ages 50 - 75. The author approaches this stage of life from her perspective as an educational sociologist. The book's premise is that life's third chapter is one of substantial growth and change. This change is based on learning. The author defines learning in this stage of life as not traditional learning, but as a mid-life process of "changing, adapting, exploring, mastery and channeling energies, skills and passions into new domains."

    Through my recent work and study in this area, I have come to appreciate the importance the third chapter plays in our lives. While I recognized its importance, I missed its significance. According to the author, "The third chapter represents a significant and new developmental period in our culture, one that comes along only once a century."

    The basis of the book is forty interviews conducted over a two year period. These interviews were conducted with both men and women between the ages of 50 and 75 who had made significant life changes during this period. Many of the interviewee's stories are told in great detail. Weaved into the book are a number of theoretical frameworks, dominated by the theoretical frameworks developed by developmental psychologist Erik Erickson and cultural anthropologist Mary Catherine Bateson.

    While the individual stories bring value and insight to the book, at times I felt they were a distraction. Personally, I would have preferred seeing less depth in the stories presented and more of the author's interpretation of each story. Despite this drawback, I felt the book was definitely worth reading. Approaching this topic from an educational and sociological perspective was a new learning for me.

    If, like me, you are a student of the third chapter of life, I would recommend you read this book as part of your learning process.
    ...more info
  • Being Over 50 is Just The Start of The Third Chapter of Your Life.
    The group of Americans in their "third chapter" of life, those years from 50 to 75, is growing every year, and they are healthier, more active, and involved than in generations past. /The Third Chapter/ is a collection of interviews with 40 men and women in that part of their lives, and explores the changes they made, voluntary and otherwise, and how they view this new part of their lives. Many of the changes these people made are representative of the evolving environment. No longer looking for fame, wealth, or retiring to the couch, this new group of active 50+ are seeking personal and community fulfillment. One leaves law practice for divinity school, another retires to write fiction and play the piano. These examples not only provide direction for others, but also inspiration; aging doesn't mark a slowdown in your life, but the ability to start a new chapter, one that can give meaning and purpose to your life....more info
    I'm impressed with this book and the true life stories it contains. I agree with one of the other reviewers that the author might have chosen to interview more regular folks. However, the book is an excellent, inspirational read. There is no doubt that the "over fifties" are pioneers in an age of increasing longevity and The Third Chapter offers the reader insight and choices for making the next years, the best years. Pamela D. Blair, author The Next Fifty Years: A Guide for Women at Midlife and Beyond...more info
  • The Third Chapter
    Interesting and positive analysis of the 50-75 year old age bracket. Thoroughly researched, good for people of all ages to read, but especially those heading into their 3rd chapter.
    ...more info
  • Third Chapter: Life after Retirement for the Privileged
    I recently read a novel (can't remember the title) which takes place in France and referred to the Third Chapter of life. This terminology has apparently been common for years, but author Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot takes credit for the coinage. I was eager to learn about people who had successfully made this transition, as my life could benefit from more passion, risk and adventure. Unfortunately, the people interviewed in this book all seem to be highly privileged: judges, corporate lawyers, physicists, entrepreneurs. What can I learn from a woman who ditches her career to write plays, and who collaborates with her friend who is a famous broadway composer? Ms. Lawrence-Lightfoot might have considered how ordinary people with family obligations, or lacking fortunes, could find their bliss after 50. ...more info


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