Finding Fulfillment in the
and Sylvia Skea had been living in Las Vegas for 30 years when Dan
decided to retire from his career as a jazz musician. Since Sylvia had
already retired a few years before, the Skeas found themselves on the
brink of something new and uncertain - a life without the customary
rhythms and rotes of employment.
said she and her husband soon decided that they wanted to take advantage
of this change.
knew we wanted to go somewhere else," Sylvia said. "We have
family in Vermont and we decided that we had enough time left for
the Skeas moved to Waterbury in Sept. 2002, buying a house based on
recommendations relayed to them by their daughter, a Vermont resident.
was a dramatically new life, and it was just what the Skeas had been
hoping to find.
are very, very happy," Sylvia said. "We don't want to ever
leave. A lot of people thought we were crazy to move here at this point
in our lives, but we didn't care. We were ready for a change and we have
embraced it. We wanted to do something completely different. We're
enjoying the slow, country life."
to the Encyclopedia of Arda, a reference guide to the works of J.R.R.
Tolkien, “the Third Age began a little over four thousand years after
the Rising of the Moon in the first year of the First Age. Of the Ages,
it is the best known, as the events of The Hobbit and The Lord of the
Rings took place in its later years.”
for others, the Third Age represents something less fanciful. For them,
the Third Age signals that time late in life when one can finally
achieve a long-sought fulfillment. It is a period when the pressures of
career and family responsibility recede and a sense of individual
self-awareness is heightened.
Third Age is when you're able to let go of some of the obligations and
embrace the things you love," Sylvia said.
term "Third Age" has become increasingly common in the U.S. in
recent years, particularly since the publication of sociologist William
Sadler's book, The Third Age, which trumpets the possibilities of
life after 50.
points out that in 1900 the average life expectancy in the U.S. was 47.
In 2000, the average life expectancy had increased to 77. The result
Sadler says, is "a 30-year life bonus"
DeBellis, a life, business and employee coach who serves as an associate
of the Center for Third Age Leadership, a Sharon, Mass.-based
organization, said the Third Age refers to people aged approximately 50
to 80. The First Age - childhood - is the age of preparation, while the
Second Age - the 20s, 30s and 40s - is the age of achievement.
both the First and Second Age, the focus tends to be on outer
directives," said DeBellis, who is based in South Burlington.
"How we live our lives comes from outside ourselves. Society has
certain expectations that we generally pay attention to.”
in the Third Age, DeBellis said, "the directions come to us
no exact starting point either. It’s more the circumstances of life or
an internal something that has happened.”
instance, DeBellis said, a child’s departure for college can bring on
a tendency to "start looking at different definitions of identity
and fulfillment. Being a parent never goes away, but suddenly it's not
as much at the forefront of who you are and what you do. The focus
begins to become much broader in how we define ourselves."
said the result is a much more relaxed view of life and a newfound
ability "to let go of these cultural expectations that are allowed
to weigh us down."
feel that I have no social pressures to perform anymore," Sylvia
said.. "I'm not saying I'm done or I'm perfect or I don't need
work, but I just don't put pressure on myself to prove anything or
points out that not all people between the ages of 50 and 80 experience
something akin to the Skeas. She said some people will never enter a
Third Age and will remain content anyway.
“For some people, no change could
be fulfilling to them,” DeBellis said. “Who am I to say that's not
DeBellis said, for someone interested in embracing the tenets of the
Third Age, there are two central guiding principles that need to be
DeBellis said, is striking a balance between mindful reflection and
risk-taking. DeBellis said this means stopping and slowing down to
consider one's life, but at the same time having the aggressiveness to
move forward and make changes.
she said, is developing a realistic optimism. This means understanding
the challenge that lies ahead, but being confident enough to make the
changes you want deep down.
about having the hope and belief to follow your dreams,” DeBellis
said. “You still of course, have to know the reality, but not to let
it pull you down.”
said the Skeas are living, breathing examples of people who have clearly
taken advantage of their Third Age. Sylvia said she continues to work
part-time, designing and making costume jewelry, while her husband plays
in various jazz bands.
continued doing the things we love,” Sylvia explained. "We've
just gotten rid of having to get up at 6 a.m. to do them.”
said possibly the most rewarding period of the Third Age so far has been
when she and Dan cleaned out their home in Las Vegas in preparation for
their move. "We had stored up 30 years worth of stuff and it was
liberating to give most of it away,” Sylvia said. "It felt
wonderful. It felt like this great weight had been lifted. The
responsibility of owning it all was gone. We still enjoy the things that
we loved most, but we don't miss what we gave away. It feels good to let
go of things.”