FRED FIRST: Things Are Looking Up . . .

Where the Sidewalk Ends (November 29th post) began a topic that loomed like a new chapter just ahead of me (and you, the reader).

But Covid had other plans for the two of us, cloistered in our age-accessible cabin in the Blue Ridge outback. The story continues, anon. We are now both fully recovered, thanks.

Before Covid I was relating our experience suddenly coming upon the VOID of healthcare and housing that faces our friends and age-peers, in particular, in our small, remote, rural mountain village. The same issues, but with different options, will be facing your city-dwelling parents or grand-parents who are entering this no-man’s-land of post-retirement. But rural challenges seem an especially tough nut with these issues.

BUT….The medicine always goes down better if it has a name, and “tastes like cherries!”

So social planners have glitzed up this shiny new time of pre-morbid, retirement and/or post-retirement living as “The THIRD AGE” also referred to as “golden” and the “age of wisdom.” YMMV


…and explaining the graphic.

As my thoughts wandered while contemplating this conundrum, I brought back from distant memory architect David Macaulay’s Escalator to Nowhere. Does anybody else remember? The image above is the best approximation I could bring about with the tools available.

The edgy “joke” in Macaulay’s graphic image (if not the one above) is the juxtaposition of a beautiful city-scape with this inexplicable, grotesquely-ginormous escalator fixed in the main thoroughfare.

Hundreds of little stick figure citizens are stepping on and chatting casually. They are carried up while standing still, in a dozen lines, moving inexorably and imperceptibly towards the top. They are all going somewhere!

But wait! At the top, this mass of humanity is spilling over into a growing heap of stick persons at the bottom. Why didn’t somebody warn them!?

At first glance, this seems like a morbid depiction of the human condition, and especially, aging. And yet…

But wait: I think the “moving while standing still” imagery has potential for analogy in the conversation about “growing older”—which I have referred to below and elsewhere as “age surfing” with the same still-but-still-moving idea.

The concept of our selves “passing through time” is so slippery; any illustration that helps us grasp it, I’ll work with it.

But I digress, big time.


The realization over time of all of these wonderful potential uses of your retirement and post-retirement life are predicated on the assumption that the age-surfing individual will be assured of access to geriatric-focused housing and healthcare as a reliable base from which to practice their music and art, writing and photography, and any other life-affirming things their joints and minds can still manage.

FACT: Technically, given the current average life expectancy in the U.S. of 78.7 years, the typical American enters the literal third third at 52½ years old.

PERSONAL 3rd Age: I have been grateful to my wife for making it possible:

Maybe I have already lived through my Third Age I took it early and entered semi-retirement at 54, to consider the particulars of my life, in “words and pixels”.

Those were the “Fragments One” years (2000 – 2020) that I can still see vividly in the rear view mirror. Now, Ann and I MAY stand at the jumping-off place for the chapter I think of as a possible Fragments Three. But those future conversations remain for another time, and given sufficient of it.

Overall, I am hopeful and motivated to reach the other side of this transition, and will share some of my enthusiasm, once we’ve gotten past these early inconvenient truths about health and housing in the Boomer Crunch.

I am breaking new ground here, so have way more questions than answers. I will share more thoughts in future posts here. For now, toss back a healthy gulp of your delicious sedating, cough-suppressing CherriCol and have a wee rest. You’re going to need it.

If you care to, you can peruse these resources about this purported age of wisdom, freedom and discovery. There will NOT be a test.


Thanks to…

The third age of life is not a fixed or uniform period, but rather a flexible and diverse one. It depends on each individual’s circumstances, preferences, and goals. Some people may enter the third age of life earlier or later than others, and some may never retire at all. The third age of life is not a decline or a burden, but rather an opportunity and a blessing. It is a chance to enjoy life to the fullest and to make the most of one’s later years. 🌟

If you want to learn more about the third age of life, you can check out these resources:

  1. Life’s Third Age: A public television special that explores the new possibilities and challenges of the third age of life, hosted by psychologist and gerontologist Ken Dychtwald.
  2. Life After Work: Understanding the Third Age: A blog post that explains the concept and benefits of the third age of life, and offers some tips on how to prepare for it.
  3. Flourishing in the Third Third of Life: A New Initiative of the De Pree Center: A website that provides resources and guidance for people who want to live a meaningful and fulfilling life in the third age of life, based on Christian faith and values.
  4. The Emergence of the Third Age: A scholarly article that examines the historical and demographic origins of the third age of life, and its implications for society and culture.
  5. What Is The 3rd Age?: A personal blog that shares insights and experiences of living in the third age of life, and encourages others to do the same.

– Fred First is an author, naturalist, photographer watching Nature under siege since the first Earth Day. Cautiously hopeful. Writing to think it through. Thanks for joining me. Subscribe to My Substack HERE


This grand old barn was a central icon during the Fragments-One years on Goose Creek, 2000-2020. It was built from hemlock, milled from the giant dark-green trees that grew above the creeks. The adelgids felled them relentlessly over a dismal decade, in the early 2000s.

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