Facing Old Age, What to Do With My One Precious, Fleeting Life?

Kathryn Betts Adams, MSW, PhD
4 min readFeb 8, 2022
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When your children are full-grown and both your parents and your in-laws have died, it’s possible you’re in the Third Age, like I am. The Third Age is a term from gerontology — the study of aging — that means early old age, not yet to the advanced old age category, now considered, “The Fourth Age.” So consider the Third Age to be from around 60 to 70-plus.

And if you’re like me, you may have some important choices to consider, top among them: What do I want to do with the rest of my one, precious, fleeting life?

First, I have to acknowledge it’s a privilege to even be able to ask the question. Many people do not have the resources to allow them to stop and consider what they “want” to do. They may be busy trying to make enough money to scrape by, let alone to save enough for retirement. Or they may be saddled with a serious health condition — their own or that of a partner or family member — that takes up their time and saps their energy.

Still others my age may be all set: working in an established career, whether planning for retirement or planning never to retire, fully engaged in the world of their work. These people are on a clear path that they feel no need to reevaluate in the Third Age.

But for those of us who have the resources and the gift of time, crossing that milestone when our parenting and parental caregiving years are behind us, it may be worthwhile to explore our options and tentatively map out a few plans for spending tomorrow as if it is, indeed, the first day of the rest of our lives.


When my father died this past May, about five years after we lost my mother, it marked a somber moment. No longer someone’s “child,” there’s no one left who knew me when I was a little girl. It’s a strange feeling, and sad — no matter that I’m on the cusp of old age myself.

But when I stop to look at the other side, in all honesty, it’s a relief from responsibilities that weighed heavily. Now I don’t have to worry anymore about my parents’ declining health or quality of life; I’ve no more need to postpone vacation plans, meet the ambulance at the E.R., order easy-on-and-off clothing and soft Velcro shoes, or make Sunday visits to a senior living facility — at…

Kathryn Betts Adams, MSW, PhD

Gerontologist. Baby Boomer. OnlyDaughter. Mom of two. Writing on aging, health, family relationships, mental health. Find me at https://KathrynBettsAdams.com