OVERRIDE

The Third Chapter

Passion, Risk, and Adventure in the 25 Years After 50

Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot

Sarah Crichton Books

“We must develop a compelling vision of later life: one that does not assume a trajectory of decline after fifty, but one that recognizes it as a time of change, grown, and new learning; a time when ‘our courage gives us hope.’” —from The Third Chapter
 
At a key moment in the twenty-first century, demographers are recognizing the significance of a distinct developmental phase: those years following early adulthood and middle age when we are “neither young nor old.” Whether by choice or not, many in their “third chapters” are finding ways to adapt, explore, and channel their energies, skills, and passions in new ways and into new areas.
 
It’s this process of creative reinvention that the renowned sociologist Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot details in The Third Chapter, which redefines our views about the casualties and opportunities of aging. She challenges the still-prevailing and anachronistic images of aging by documenting and revealing how the years between fifty and seventy-five may, in fact, be the most transformative and generative time in our lives, tracing the ways in which wisdom, experience, and new learning inspire individual growth and cultural transformation.
 
The Third Chapter is not a how-to guide but a fascinating work of sociology, full of passionate and poignant stories of risk and vulnerability, failure and resilience, challenge and mastery, experimentation and improvisation, and insight and new learning. These stories reveal a whole world of learning and discovery awaiting those who want it. In The Third Chapter, Lawrence-Lightfoot captures a new moment in history and offers us a book rich with insight and hope about our endless capacity for change and growth.
“We must develop a compelling vision of later life: one that does not assume a trajectory of decline after fifty, but one that recognizes it as a time of change, grown, and new learning; a time when ‘our courage gives us hope.’” —from The Third Chapter At a key moment in the twenty-first century, demographers are recognizing the significance of a distinct developmental phase: those years following early adulthood and middle age when we are “neither young nor old.” Whether by choice or not, many in their “third chapters” are finding ways to adapt, explore, and channel their energies, skills, and passions in new ways and into new areas. It’s this process of creative reinvention that the renowned sociologist Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot details in The Third Chapter, which redefines our views about the casualties and opportunities of aging. She challenges the still-prevailing and anachronistic images of aging by documenting and revealing how the years between fifty and seventy-five may, in fact, be the most transformative and generative time in our lives, tracing the ways in which wisdom, experience, and new learning inspire individual growth and cultural transformation.  The Third Chapter is not a how-to guide but a fascinating work of sociology, full of passionate and poignant stories of risk and vulnerability, failure and resilience, challenge and mastery, experimentation and improvisation, and insight and new learning. These stories reveal a whole world of learning and discovery awaiting those who want it. In The Third Chapter, Lawrence-Lightfoot captures a new moment in history and offers us a book rich with insight and hope about our endless capacity for change and growth.

BOOK EXCERPTS

Read an Excerpt

Introduction: Facing the Mirror

Perhaps it is my age. I am sixty-two, and for the last several years my conversations with friends, colleagues, and even casual acquaintances have often been punctuated by what I have now come to call "confessional moments." Certainly there is the expected chatter and grumbling about minor and major infirmities or unwelcome signs of deterioration—lower-back pain, varicose veins, bald heads, and gray hair—and there is the usual whining about offspring, now finished with college, maybe even married with young children, who return home to live and

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REVIEWS

Praise for The Third Chapter

The Third Chapter is a compassionate rendering of the challenges of entering uncharted post-career years, followed by an eloquent vision of the joys that lie ahead for those who put giving at the center of living.” —Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Harvard Business School Professor and bestselling author of Confidence and America the Principled
 
“Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot follows her subjects on an extraordinary journey. Read this book and be inspired by the diverse ways these women and men redefine their lives, adding purpose, passion, and reflection as they grow older.” —Marian Wright Edelman, President, Children’s Defense Fund
 
“In this singular book, Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot introduces a new stage of life, delineates its intriguing and unexpected contours, and draws lessons that are meaningful for every human being.” —Howard Gardner, author of Good Work: When Excellence and Ethics Meet
 
“Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot, one of our most graceful and gifted chroniclers of the changing psychological landscape, has produced a biography of the new lifestage emerging between the end of the middle years and the arrival of old age. This remarkable tale is conveyed through the nuanced stories of individuals navigating their way through their fifties, sixties, and seventies, and is punctuated by Lightfoot’s arresting observations. The result is not only the best book yet about the changing lifecourse, but an inspiring roadmap for individual and social renewal in the emerging third chapter. As ten thousand baby boomers turn sixty each day, the timing of this book is as exquisite as its insights.” —Marc Freedman, author of Encore: Finding Work That Matters in the Second Half of Life and founder/CEO of Civic Ventures
The Third Chapter is a compassionate rendering of the challenges of entering uncharted post-career years, followed by an eloquent vision of the joys that lie ahead for those who put giving at the center of living.” —Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Harvard Business School Professor and bestselling author of Confidence and America the Principled
 
“Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot follows her subjects on an extraordinary journey. Read this book and be inspired by the diverse ways these women and men redefine their lives, adding purpose, passion, and reflection as they grow older.” —Marian Wright Edelman, President, Children’s Defense Fund
 
“In this singular book, Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot introduces a new stage of life, delineates its intriguing and unexpected contours, and draws lessons that are meaningful for every human being.” —Howard Gardner, author of Good Work: When Excellence and Ethics Meet
 
“Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot, one of our most graceful and gifted chroniclers of the changing psychological landscape, has produced a biography of the new lifestage emerging between the end of the middle years and the arrival of old age. This remarkable tale is conveyed through the nuanced stories of individuals navigating their way through their fifties, sixties, and seventies, and is punctuated by Lightfoot’s arresting observations. The result is not only the best book yet about the changing lifecourse, but an inspiring roadmap for individual and social renewal in the emerging third chapter. As ten thousand baby boomers turn sixty each day, the timing of this book is as exquisite as its insights.” —Marc Freedman, author of Encore: Finding Work That Matters in the Second Half of Life and founder/CEO of Civic Ventures

Reviews from Goodreads

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot

  • Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot is the Emily Hargroves Fisher Professor of Education at Harvard and the chair of the board of the MacArthur Foundation. As a sociologist, she examines the culture of schools, the patterns and structures of classroom life, socialization within families and communities, and the relationships between culture and learning styles.

  • Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot
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The Third Chapter

Passion, Risk, and Adventure in the 25 Years After 50

Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot

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