In this revelation of a book, the renowned sociologist Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot declares: “We must develop a compelling vision of later life, one that does not assume a trajectory of decline after fifty but recognizes this as a time of potential change, growth, and new learning, a time when our ‘courage gives us hope.’” We’re at a key moment in history, Lawrence-Lightfoot points out. In the twenty-first century, demographers are recognizing the significance of a distinct developmental phase: those years following adulthood and middle age when we’re “neither young nor old.” This third chapter is a stage in life when the traditional norms, rues, and rituals of our careers seem less encompassing and restrictive; when many women and men are embracing new challenges and searching for greater meaning in life.
To explore this dynamic new cultural shift, Lawrence-Lightfoot spent two years traveling the United States, interviewing men and women in their fifties, sixties, and seventies who have changed their lives and, in doing so, are redefining our views (and their own) on aging. In one inspirational story after another, they tell passionate and poignant tales of risk and vulnerability, failure and resilience, challenge and mastery, wisdom and new learning, proving that the years between fifty and seventy-five may, in fact, be the most transformative and generative time in our lives. These stories reveal a whole world of learning and discovery awaiting those who want it. In The Third Chapter, Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot both captures a new moment in history and offers us a book rich with insight and hope about our endless capacity for change and growth.
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 Five Minds for the Future
The Third Chapter is a compassionate rendering of the challenges of entering uncharted post-career years, followed by an eloquent vision of he 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
Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot, one of our most graceful and gifted chroniclers of the changing psychological landscape, has produced a biography of the new life stage emerging between the end of the middle years and the arrival of old age. This remarkable tale, punctuated by Lawrence-Lightfoot’s arresting observations, is not only the best book yet about the changing life course, 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