Accepted Paper:

Third Age as an ideology and as an analytical category: how the concept can be applicable in Polish anthropology?  

Author:

Joanna Zalewska

Paper short abstract:

The term ‘third age’ is created in ideological purposes of speaking for retired people. In Warsaw this concept is promoted by the institutions sponsored by the EU, acting for the sake of the elderly. The term serves for fighting with exclusion of the elderly, but at the same time it introduces ‘global’ ideology of active ageing which is new in local experience.

Paper long abstract:

The concept of the third age is derived from the modern division of life course into stages. The third age is a period of retirement, when the elderly free from their everyday previous duties can finally realize themselves, and it is juxtaposed to the fourth age, time of decline and dying. The concept of the third age was meant to give the meaning of self-realization instead of exclusion to the retirement.

Nowadays modern capitalist society pays more attention to consumption than production. Withdrawal from job market does not exclude citizens from consumer activities if they have enough resources to spend. Retired people are not excluded as long as they participate in leisure culture, which requires material, social and cultural capital.

In Poland the concept of the third age is promoted by the institutions sponsored by the EU, acting for the sake of the elderly and it is spread among those who have direct access to the services of these institutions. They promote volunteering and intergenerational cooperation. The third age is presented as difficult period: excess of free time, difficult financial situation, loneliness. The aim is to fight with exclusion of the elderly, but at the same time it introduces 'global' ideology of active ageing which may not suit local experience of ageing.

It seems that the term 'third age' is created in ideological purposes of speaking for retired people. Later on the third age has become a concept which divides the younger, wealthier, educated, healthier (the third age) from the poor, ill, uneducated (the fourth age).

Panel W095
East looks West and West looks East - mutual constructions of anthropology