Pioneers in Aging

Let me start by saying– we are all pioneers in aging!

Yes, pioneers because this is the first time in human history that so many of us have been alive for so long with relatively good health and comparatively good wealth.

What is a pioneer– Well, the dictionary says it’s someone who is first to explore or settle a new country or territory.  I believe that our third act is located in a new psychological country and we, here in this time, can decide how we want this new country to look and feel.

What is The 3rd Act?

But what is the third act?  My years of experience working with hundreds of people tells me that the third act is a state of mind not an age. Peggy Lee’s famous lyric “Is that all there is?” is the background music for this phase.

I ‘ve heard over and over again from my clients and I experienced it personally when I started The 3rd Act  13 years ago – that there is something more. Something else I am meant to do.

They’d tell me, “My family is pretty much launched, and my career has grown, but it is not satisfying. There is something more that is left for me to do.”

This stage is not associated with a particular age, like 65, but has a feeling of agitation or a nudging for something that is waiting for us.

Models for Longer Life

We have had wise elders point us in the right direction but not many. Eric Erikson in his theory of psychological development talked about the task for this time of life is to be generative. If we fail, we run the risk of facing stagnation.

We have Angeles Arrien the great anthropologist and teacher show us how aging can be an opportunity to continue to grow and deepen. And my colleague William Sadler speaks about this not as a time to fade away but as a time to rebloom.

We, in first world countries are living almost 30 years longer than ever before on the planet.  This bonus time is called by some “Middlescence”. I call the adults who are going through this stage “Generatarians” after Eric Erikson’s stages of life, and I hope that word Generatarian catches on.

I believe the work that I’ve been doing for over a decade as well as that of Barbara Waxman, Ken Dychtwald and William Sadler to name a few, is a response to what we have seen with our clients and in our research.

Much like adolescence became a new developmental stage for teenagers 100 years ago, we elders are now part of a new adult developmental stage.

Again, I say we are pioneers. In the past we just didn’t live this long. We thought, and it was our experience, that you worked hard and raised a family, and then maybe you lived a few more years, and then you died.

So, we’ve had very few directionals or models for living longer successfully. We didn’t have this third act option until recently.

It is the post WWII generation who are looking at a life that is much different from their parents or grandparents. They/we are leading the way. Once again challenging and changing the status quo.

A New Stage of Life: Life After Retirement

So, this new psychological process includes challenges and opportunities that have never been faced before.

Like many other stages of life – graduation, marriage, the birth of a child – the transition to your third act from your second is one can be filled with both fear of the unknown and excitement about the possibilities.

But what makes this particular stage different from others is we can no longer be in denial about the end of our life growing near.

This awareness adds an extra energy to the choices we make.  And it helps us to clarify what is important to us now.

This is not your second act. It used to be that people looked at life in two acts.  But this could truly be an additional third of life… Life after Retirement.



The 3rd Act was founded and is led by Patricia Cavanaugh — a seasoned psychotherapist and licensed coach who has helped hundreds of retirees find their path and purpose in this phase of life.

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