Each stage in life is calling on us to do and be something different.

In the first-act we are Dependent on those around us; our family, community and society. Our nature and nurture forms our personality, our nature being what we are born with, our nurture being what we are born into.

In the second-act we launch ourselves into the world as Independent adults, busy fending for ourselves, making choices, forming our own family units. Our identity is now shared with our new family and with what we do, “Ed the plumber, Ed the solicitor”.

In the third-act something else may happen. Developmentally it is an Inter-Independent stage of development, one that calls on us to connect into something other than ourselves and those around us.

The third-act is then defined as both a ‘physical stage of life’ (the last three decades of our lives) as well as a ‘psychological stage of development’.

Everyone who lives long enough will have a third-age, not everyone who lives long enough will have a third-act.

Transitioning from the second- to third-act requires our conscious attention, one that enables us to take a new perspective on what formed us in the first-act and what shaped us in the second-act.

If we don’t accept the call, we may use this new gift of time to play out another scene from the second-act, “this time I’ll do it better” or regress to a “bucket list of things to do before I die”, that we should have done in the first-act.



Longevity & The Third Act: The Facts


“The advancement in life expectancy is the greatest societal achievement of the 20th century”. Alexandre Kalache’s ex director of ageing at The W.H.O.

We are currently living 25-30 years longer than our great-grandparents, the equivalent of a whole new adult lifetime.[i]

Advances in human longevity have been described as the greatest social achievement of the past 100 years[ii].

More years have been added to life expectancy in the last 100 years than all of the previous millennia of mankind combined[iii].

We are currently adding two and half years in longevity per decade, that’s three months a year or six hours a day[iv].

‘Average’ life expectancy in the developed world is now 80 years; 81 years in Ireland[v] and forecast to rise at current rates to over 90 by 2050

Most children born today in the developed world can expect to celebrate their 100th birthdays[vi]

If you are 60 today you have a 50% chance of living to 90[vii]

Third-actors are now the fastest growing segment of the population

By 2050 there will be 2 billion people over 60, that’s 22% of the population. In Japan 40% of the population will be over 60

70% of retirees say they want to continue working; 50% to re-invent themselves and the other 50% want to stay in their chosen field but work more flexibly[viii]

In the US at least, there are now more entrepreneurs coming from the 55-65 age bracket than from the 25-35 age bracket[ix]

Older entrepreneurs (55+) have a 70% success rate compared to younger entrepreneurs (under 30) with a 28% success rate[x]

Over 55’s working longer could increase Ireland’s GDP by €15b.[xi

The gap in retirement in savings, due to increases in longevity, is reaching a crisis point and has been described as the financial equivalent of climate change (Michael Dresler, WEF)[xii]


[i] Ted Talk. Jane Fonda. The Third Act In Life. 2011

[ii] World Health Organisation

[iii] Stanford University professor Laura Carstensen

[iv] Broken Limits to Life Expectancy, James W. Vaupel and Kristín G. v. Kistowski, 2005

[v] ERSI Report Ireland, March 2015

[vi] Most Babies Born Today Will Live 100 Years, Scientists Say. 1/10/09

[vii] Gratton & Scott. Living and Working in an age of Longevity (2016)

[viii] American’s perspectives on new Retirement Realities. Merrill Lynch Age Wave Report, 2013

[ix] The Coming Entrepreneurship Boom. The Kaufman Foundation, June 2009

[x] Paul Tasner Ted Talk on Youtube. How I became an entrepreneur at 66.

[xi] PWC Golden age Index. Irish Times, 19/10/2017

[xii] BBC. Call to raise the retirement age to 70 (2017)

Edward KellySeminars