20 FEBRUARY 2021

Go positively into the Third Age

On 20 February Dr Jane Fyfield, expert gerontologist, gave an engaging and informative first Saturday Seminar for 2021.

Jane’s topic, New Tricks or Old Tricks Made New for Healthy Old Age, was informative and entertaining and perfectly pitched for a U3APP audience.

Jane spoke about how our society can be ageist and youth oriented, and that people in the third age must fight these stereotypes; they should recognise that they are resilient.

Jane stressed that the mindset of older people needs to change and we must overcome the “tyranny of still”.   The thinking that “I can still do this” or ” I can still do that” – as this is just us reinforcing the inherent ageism in our society.  We should instead be celebrating what we are achieving and doing and learning.

Jane showed us that Australians are living longer, and they are healthier; which is not to say that people do not, or will not, have health issues.  It is all about management of our circumstances – remaining healthy, positive in outlook, connected to family and friends, and stimulated.  Take a bow U3APP!

It was a manifesto for healthy ageing from a health professional who has spent years researching the topic.

The seminar was ably facilitated by Sheila Quairney, U3APP Committee Member and Tutor of Helping you to Relax.

A recording of this Seminar can be viewed here.

Pam Caven, U3APP Committee of Management & Covid-19 Working Group


Reflective Piece by Sheila Quairney “My Third Age”

After facilitating Jane’s Seminar, Sheila was inspired to put her feelings down on paper as a way of reflecting her life and what the third age means to her:

Yesterday I facilitated a presentation by a gerontologist about ageing well. The content was much as I expected – around being positive, focusing on ability, not disability and following the four commandments for a healthy old age: think, move, socialise and eat well. Yes, I thought, I do all that – cryptic crosswords for the thinking, daily walks for the moving, doing activities with friends for the socialising, and eating well (probably a bit too well sometimes).

But one of her recommendations struck a chord with me. It was something I hadn’t heard before and somehow it resonated.

She talked about not focusing on what you “still can do” but on celebrating the changes in your life that have come with age. Not the nasty stuff around aches and pains, but what you do now that you couldn’t or didn’t do in your youth.

So that got me thinking. How could I reframe my view of myself to celebrate the many changes that have happened in my Third Age?

I’ve just about got over the shock of being described as elderly by the media, especially during the past year. That can’t be me they’re talking about, can it? But at least it means I’m nearer the front of the queue for the long-awaited Covid vaccine. So maybe it’s not that bad being over 65.

Retirement is often talked about as a golden age, free from the stresses of employment, with ample time to enjoy the grandchildren and the garden.

The Third Age is a concept born in the 1970s with the establishment in France of the University of the Third Age movement, offering, as we know, study opportunities to relatively healthy and active seniors.

It became framed as a positive ageing theory for developed countries in 1987 through the work of British historian Peter Laslett.  He posited that one’s life comprises four Ages. The First Age is for learning, the Second Age is for working and child rearing and the Third Age is the culmination of one’s life after retirement. With the Fourth Age comes final dependence and ultimately death.

Clearly I have embarked on my Third Age and hope to continue in it for many years to come. I’m in the novel position of no longer being the oldest person in the workplace, but often the youngest person in the room. Most people I now meet and socialise with are older than me, but what interesting and varied lives they’ve led, and what stories they have to tell.

My life has also changed enormously in the past five years since taking voluntary redundancy from my full time job. I was working with entrepreneurial students and graduates, all of course way younger than me!

Three years ago I met my partner Brian.  At the age of 64 (but not quite wasting away, despite what the Beatles’ lyrics said) I moved to Australia. And now I’m in the final throes of getting a resident’s visa, just waiting on a medical which hopefully will establish that I’m fit enough to be allowed to stay.

I still do lots of the same activities I did in my Second Age – I sing, I walk, I travel, I visit the theatre. There are things I can’t do as well as I used to due to injury, such as swimming, but I’ve adapted and try to do what I can.

I’m still, very fortunately, a daughter (to a 95 year old father), a mother, a sister and a step mum, though not yet a fully fledged grandparent.

But what can I celebrate as new achievements and activities as I settle into my Third Age?

Well, clearly I am a creative writer! Being in Pat’s group at U3APP has renewed my enthusiasm for writing – I no longer have to write project reports or policy documents or instructions, but I can develop my love of the written word in other ways, like in this piece and many like it. And because I want to, not because I have to.

I’m a cyclist – having finally got back on my bike after many years of living in hilly Yorkshire in the UK, I’ve discovered the joys of cycling along the beach at daybreak. And cycling frees up my creativity too – I thought of this piece whilst pedalling along the seafront this morning.

I’m a relaxation teacher – I’ve taken the bits of my 26 year Yoga teaching career that I always enjoyed best and honed them into two weekly 30 minute U3A classes to help my peers.

I’m a student of dance  – I attend a fantastic Exercise to Music class and have rediscovered the joys of moving my body to the beat. I’m not sure that I’d want to see a video of my dance moves, but in my mind, I’m creating beautiful shapes.

And finally, I am a Victorian! I love living in this tolerant, diverse, stimulating place. I love the bush and the hills and the sea. I love the food and the wine and the friendships I’ve made. I love my house in Port Melbourne and the history all around me.

I’m not quite ready to say that I’m an Australian. But I hope that one day in the not too distant future, that will be another change that I can wholeheartedly celebrate and I can live out my Third Age in this wonderful country.

Sheila Quairney, U3APP Committee of Management & Tutor


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