In Italy, the retirement age has been steadily rising over the last decade from 59 to 67 for both men and women. This is on par with most other developed countries. Retirement age typically ranges from 60-67 among the G20 countries. (All except for Indonesia whose retirement age is only 58). With the average life expectancy being 82 years in Italy, this means that men and women of retirement age have an average of 15 years after they retire to fully enjoy their lives.
After an individual retires, their life enters a phase that is known as the ‘Third Age.’ This age is when there are fewer responsibilities–the kids are out of the home, income comes from a pension or retirement fund, and there is time to engage in the activities they enjoy the most. This time of life is often referred to as the age of fulfillment. This is because there is little importance placed on what society thinks and more focus is placed on the purpose of life.
Retirement is a time for individuals who have spent their lives working and contributing to society to enjoy the good things life has to offer. However, many argue that the Third Age should be treated as a time to grow and develop as an individual, while also still enjoying life. It is the time in life when an individual truly begins to realize self-actualization according to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
When an individual reaches self-actualization they no longer care about what others think of them as they fully accept who they are. They also tend to be problem-centered and can look at life objectively. Another characteristic of individuals in the Third Age is that they are concerned for the welfare of humanity.
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With the extra time available after retirement, it is common to see individuals trying new things. Trying new things can give a new sense of purpose and can spark passion in individuals that are now excluded from the workforce. This could be learning and starting a new sport, picking up a new hobby, or even traveling the globe (something that was likely difficult with work and family-life). Finding a way to keep themselves occupied is a key component of being able to lead a fulfilling life after retirement.
While the Third Age is a time when individuals can begin fully enjoying their life, free from family duties and work, it can also be challenging. Even if an individual plans carefully throughout the entire Second Age, they may still find themselves having difficulty after retirement. Two of the biggest challenges facing those in the Third Age are economics and health.
Like many countries, Italy has a pension program that is a compulsory pay-as-you-go insurance plan. However, despite the contributions individuals make over their lifetime, they often find the amount of pension they receive is not enough to cover even their most basic expenses in a month. There are several reasons for the economic difficulties that Third Age individuals face. One of these reasons is that the amount of pension received is inadequate for living expenses. Another reason is the high cost of living, especially in cities. These factors are tempting the aging population to consider shifting to countries like Portugal or Bulgaria—places where they can live comfortably on an Italian pension.
An undeniable fact of life is that the human body ages. With age things simply don’t work the way they once used to. What used to be easy and didn’t require any thought, now requires planning and even assistance. It may be that walking has gotten more difficult due to arthritis settling into the joints or needing hearing aids as it becomes a challenge to hear others. These ailments can make it more difficult to enjoy the free time to explore and enjoy the Third Age. However, there are tools, medications, and devices that can help ease the symptoms of many ailments, that can give a new lease on life.
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Protections have been put in place to protect individuals as they begin to age. However, despite these protections, retired individuals in the Third Age are often a marginalized group. They face discrimination and are shunted to the sidelines. Psychologically, this shift from being viewed as a productive member of society to one that is simply a burden, can be significant. It can cause issues such as depression and can further compound other health issues that come with age. This particular challenge can be overcome by focusing on continuing to learn and grow as an individual. Pursuing new hobbies and activities help keep the mind sharp, give Third Age individuals a chance to make new acquaintances, and help them feel accepted by others.
The “role” that Third Age individuals are given in society needs to be re-evaluated. While this group of individuals is often treated as though they are no longer useful to society, there are many lessons they can teach individuals in the First Age and Second Age. One of the best ways to do this is by volunteering with First Age children. Volunteering creates a two-way street, benefiting both parties involved. The First Age children are benefited by getting the kind of positive attention they need, yet often lack. Meanwhile, the Third Age volunteers often find a sense of purpose in their lives and find themselves learning immensely from the children they volunteer with (especially in terms of learning new technologies).
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The benefits derived from this interaction often leaves both parties with a sense of emotional satisfaction. The Third Age individuals typically find they have better cognitive performance and their physical health tends to improve. At the same time, the children are learning the emotional skills needed to be successful in life. You can learn more here.
Aging is inevitable, but it doesn’t have to become something that cumbersome that eliminates all sources of joy. Instead, the Third Age individuals should be encouraged to embrace this age and take advantage of the extra time they have to enjoy their lives. Likewise, younger generations need to make the effort to include these individuals in society, rather than pushing them to the sidelines. Finding a way to incorporate all ages into society in a productive manner can benefit all groups involved and society, as a whole, will be benefited.