Posts Tagged ‘Flourishin in the Third Act’

There are moments in your life where, in an instant, everything changes. And more often than not, it is something that you are expecting and perhaps wanting to avoid dealing with. An undercurrent of hints and signs present themselves to you and still, you keep trucking along, head turned away from the obvious, believing that if you hold your focus elsewhere, the obvious will not happen.

Then, BOOM! The unexpected/expected happens.

Part of the Third Act for many of us is having parents approaching the Forth Act (if such a term has been coined). I am the proud ‘outlaw’ of two aging parents-in law named Dorothy and Ron, ages 87 and 86 respectively. While physically healthy, both of them are experiencing levels of memory loss, judgment lapses and dementia. Dorothy has been most affected by this, leaving Ron as the primary care-giver. More recently it has been evident that Ron’s health has also been changing and, while all of us have been observing this, it has been easier to believe that things would just keep ticking along.

As I write this, Ron has been hospitalized following a weekend meltdown called pneumonia, which in the elderly is often missed, presenting as confusion, paranoia, memory loss and decompensation. This is where we found ourselves. Everything has changed as we as a family face the reality that they may no longer be able to live independently.

I am fully aware that this is yet another rite of passage for Third Acters and perhaps a perfect example of how we also approach our own aging and Third Act planning. You know that one day you will retire, in some way, and it is easy to avoid looking at it or planning for it. And then one day, your employer tells you it is time to pack up your desk, to ‘retire’ and you are shocked and completely unprepared. How is it possible you could not see this coming?


One day you are working, and the next day you are not. And in your avoidance, you are completely unprepared for the inevitable. What do you do now?

Chances are, the hints and signs were in your consciousness even though you were looking the other way. In our current dilemma, I had already called in the local psycho-geriatric team for Dorothy and we were waiting for Ron’s assessment to be scheduled. This at least was the first step in connecting us to community services. In other words, we have a place to start.

You do as well and the first step is to simply relax, breathe, and recognize the opportunity that stretches before you. It is fair to say that you will miss your J.O.B. You will miss the routine, the work itself, the social connections and more. All of this can re-created in a new way and first, give yourself an opportunity to recognize that stepping away from your J.O.B. is a significant loss. It is part of how you have defined yourself for many years and it is not only appropriate but important to grieve this loss.

This is the first important step of your Third Act. Experiencing and expressing the loss you may feel, allows you to release it and create space for what’s next in your life.

Do yourself a favor and book some time with a massage therapist, an energy worker (Reiki, Integrated Energy, or networking chiropractic), or any practitioner that can support you in moving forward. Consider meditation, yoga, physical work outs of any description. Avoid signing up for every volunteer opportunity offered to you because others know you now have loads of free time. Trust me, this is not a solution.

Learn to ‘BE’ for a while, giving yourself that important opportunity to know yourself and assess what is important to you today and in the future.

Welcome to your Third Act!

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We have all fallen prey to the ageist beliefs that pervade society and show up in everyday conversations. Likewise, as you approach retirement and your Third Act, you will be wondering what is in store for me. Speaking for myself, I truly dislike the word “retire” as it had always felt like the equivalent of disengaged, coach potato, slowing down, ‘disappearing’ from life. My preference would be to re-tire, put on new treads, or re-fire, examine the possibilities and ignite my inner fire.

I am in a fortunate position though. I re-tired from health care when I was only 47 and began a new career, forming my own business and engaging in corporate coaching and consulting. Here I am almost 20 years later, still engaged, and changing gears. I get to re-invent myself and I have the experience to do it. This is not so for everyone. Despite this I still hold the same fears about what’s next, will I still be vital and active, will my brain and my body hold up, will what I do and who I be matter, and more.

To that end, I began to explore and examine some of the myths concerning me in terms of the Third Act. Here are a few excerpted from my search.

Your Destiny is Out of Your Control According to the American Journal of Psychiatry, Your Third Act offers you more control over your destiny than you might believe. As you enter the Third Act, your choices actually increase rather than diminish. If you have chosen to retire, even more so. Your choices include how you spend your time, how you engage your personal strengths and accrued wisdom, how you choose to live your life on a daily basis. Remembering that you have control, it is then your choice to take certain steps to define the Third Act you wish to have.

You will Lose Your Tribe and Be Lonely There is no doubt that when you leave the J.O.B. (Justifiable Occupation or Business) and opt for retirement, that a significant loss is your tribe – your work colleagues. The interesting thing is that your social intelligence, your ability to meet and get along with others, grows as you get older. Dr. Margaret Gatz of USC reports that “you get better at sizing people up, at understanding how relationships work and at not getting into an argument”. In other words, you get to choose who you hang with and you no longer have to get along with everyone simply because you work with them. Yeah! Remember, socializing is in important choices in terms of supporting a healthy brain. You are wired to connect.

You will Stop Learning and Growing You can’t teach an old dog new tricks! NO! Studies on neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to change its structure as the result of major trauma or brain injury, has helped science to understand that the brain is constantly changing and responding to experience. From a Positive Psychology point of view, you can employ self-directed neuroplasticity, using this to nurture new habits, manage your inner self-talk, develop self-compassion, and so on. Meditation and mindfulness, dedicating quiet time to allow your brain to shift and re-wire is supported by studies done with Buddhist monks and other meditators. It is an exciting new frontier which those of us in the Third Act can employ. Your brain has limitless capacity to learn and re-wire.

Your Physical Abilities will Decline Not true. Just as with the previous decades you get to choose. The adage, use it or lose it applies just as it always has. Muscle strength and tone can be maintained and even grown, depending on the activities in which you engage. And yes, there are all those warnings about ‘arthritis’ setting in and osteoporosis, and while these are risk factors, many Third Acters will never develop these issues. Invest in your body and it will invest in you.

You won’t BE Happy Research doesn’t support this, in fact, studies suggest that once you get beyond the 40’s it is uphill. Most Third Acters report feeling more contentment and opportunity because of their new found freedom. The Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization found that people are “at their happiest at retirement age.” Will this continue? That depends on the decisions you make regarding your Third Act.

You’ll Be Stuck with Bad Habits

Changing habits at any age is a matter of personal choice. The reality of aging is that you have more time to dedicate to your health, should this be a habit you wish to cultivate. From a Positive Psychology Perspective, developing new habits is a matter of understanding your motivation or the reward that you seek, identifying specific cues that you can associate habit formation with, and then supporting the habit you wish to develop. Be forewarned, old habits don’t die, they are replaced with new and better ones.

You’ll Stop having Sex

Here’s the good news for Third Acters, if you have had a healthy sex life before the Third Act, there is no reason for this to abruptly end. In fact, recent studies of those well over 60 suggest that we want to experience and enjoy sex. A national survey of 75-85 year olds reported the ¾ of male and ½ of female respondents reported that they were sexually active. Okay, as women, we have some work to do!

You’ll Feel Old When I was a physiotherapist working in Long Term Care, and during the completion of my Certificate in Gerontology, I conducted a survey with 40 of my most senior residents. I was curious how old they felt, not what they saw in the mirror, but what they felt inside. I was surprised to learn that most of them told me they ‘felt’ about 35. My data is supported by a 2009 PEW Research Study which found that “the older people are, the younger they feel”. The researchers observed that the gap between chronological age and “age felt” grew wider as people grew older. It supports our commonly held belief that you are as old as you feel!

Take time to examine your beliefs in regard to aging and retirement. Ask yourself if these are perfect for you. If they aren’t re-write them. Always remember, you get to choose!

Reference: 10 Misconceptions About Aging, Huffington Post

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