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Figuring out your "Third Act" 50s and beyond

Updated: Jun 25

The Third Act

The years starting from mid-fifties to early sixties herald a host of changes for many of us – a new set of opportunities and challenges. For many, it's a time eagerly anticipated, a period of newfound freedom and leisure to make new choices. It can be filled with both excitement and apprehension as we contemplate the new freedoms and also new limitations.

There is a lot we can do to make this time wonderful -- or. terrible.

Approaching this stage of life intentionally and thoughtfully sets the stage for living it in the best way possible.

These years are sometimes called the “third act”, "middle adulthood," the "sweet spot," or in Ericksonian Psychology’s human psychosocial development model, later "life stages" which are characterized by the following “conflicts”:

  • Stage 7 Generativity vs. stagnation 40 to 65 years: The desire to give to family and community, and to succeed at work. Often the later part of this stage turns to teaching, managing, mentoring others versus “doing”

  • Stage 8 Integrity vs. despair 65 years and beyond: Your evaluation of what you’ve achieved, and congruence with the kind of person you aspired to be.

Translation: How you live these years makes a difference between being generative and relevant with satisfaction, or stagnant and in despair. Blue zones research also suggests that how you spend these years also influences longevity. (And no, it's not just eating fish and exercising)

Using this time for all it can be:

There is much to love about middle age. We arrive here armed with vast and valuable accumulated wisdom, but ironically many of us struggle to remain relevant and make our valuable contributions in the face of pervasive age bias. In short, this period of life introduces challenges and opportunities in finding meaning, keeping and deepening relationships, accepting limitations while enjoying newfound freedoms, unleashing creativity; and building on integrity and authenticity. It is a period of deep change, possible upheaval, and unprecedented opportunity to make the most out of life on our own terms.

As it's the third, and generally the last act, many people take it seriously and want to use their resources to access psychotherapy, and/or use self-help tools and community resources. It can be rewarding to have an experienced professional to help you move consciously along this part of your path, setting intentions, planning, and growing psychologically and spiritually.

Setting intentions can help you to plan and initiate, and provide a useful guidepost for checking in along the way as you embrace the changes. Think in terms of what, where, with whom, why, and how – that is:

  • What activities/pursuits will be fulfilling to you at this time,

  • Where you want to be,

  • With whom you want to be connected and the meaning of those connections,

  • Who you aspire to be,

  • What is your purpose, including what legacy do you want to leave (this is the “why”), and

  • How you want to use the resources available to you, within your limitations.

For many, this shift offers the gift of time, allowing us to explore and pursue passions we may have set aside while focused on building a career and taking care of basic needs for ourselves and our families. Time contiues to be a precious, limited resource. We are more aware than ever that we only get to live each day once, and that we want to use it as well as possible

Whether we have deferred hobbies such as traveling, art, gardening, or writing; or even taking bold steps in work, refocusing provides the opportunity to delve into activities that bring you joy and fulfillment. For many, dealing with financial limitations and responsibilities for caring for aging parents, elders, or special needs children necessitate special attention to planning to make the most of this time.

What we know

Healthy aging means taking care of our minds, bodies, and relationships, as well as finding purpose and meaning.

Taking care of our minds includes the following elements:

Stress Management: Practicing stress-reducing techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, or yoga.

Develop a support system and engage in activities that bring joy and relaxation.

Adequate Sleep: Ensure you get enough quality sleep each night. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep, as sleep is crucial for overall health and well-being.

Mental Stimulation: Keeping your mind active with activities that challenge and stimulate cognitive function, and learning new skills.

Exercising and engaging your mind – Enrolling in courses, attending workshops, or taking up new hobbies can keep your mind active and engaged. Lifelong learning not only stimulates your intellect but also helps you stay connected to the world around you.

The liberty and flexibility of having less responsibilities also opens up the possibility to explore new places, cultures, and experiences. Whether it's a road trip across the country, or an international adventure, travel can enrich your life in countless ways.

Positive Attitude: Cultivating a positive outlook on life and focus on the things that bring you joy and fulfillment.

Embracing change and view challenges as opportunities for growth.

Being flexible and adaptable to changes in your physical and mental health.

Seeking support and resources when needed to address age-related challenges.

Balancing accepting with striving.


You might be surprised to know that human connection is the single most important factor in healthy aging and longevity. People who are socially isolated, are more prone to dementia, heart disease, and premature death. And for satisfaction and health, adequate contact and quality of relationships are both important.

Taking care of our bodies includes:

Regular Exercise

Engaging in regular physical activity to maintain muscle strength, flexibility, and cardiovascular health.

Combining aerobic exercises (e.g., walking, swimming) and strength training. We may find that generic fitness programs don't fit our aging bodies and choose to seek out lower-impact workouts, or other modifications that use the capabilities we have now.

Exercising for healthy aging includes strength, endurance, flexibility, and balance.

Balanced Diet: Eating a well-balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy.

Staying hydrated and limit the intake of processed foods, sugary snacks, and excessive amounts of alcohol

Regular Health Check-ups: Scheduling regular check-ups with your healthcare provider to monitor and manage any health conditions.

Staying up-to-date on vaccinations and screenings.

Changing Harmful Habits: Quitting smoking and limiting alcohol and other recreational drug intake.

Being cautious with medications and consulting with your healthcare providers and paramacists about potential side effects and interactions.

Hydration: Drinking an adequate amount of water to support overall health and proper bodily functions.

Sun Protection: Protecting your skin from the sun to prevent skin damage and reduce the risk of skin cancer.

Sexual Health:

Although aging may bring changes, sexuality provides health benefits, enhances loving human bonds, and can be a meaningful part of feeling alive and vital. Learn to communicate your needs to your partner(s) and your healthcare providers, and be flexible and creative. (Note: Although there is a stereotype that middle-agers are not sexually active, the fastest growing STD rates are among 50+ folks, so: If infection is a possibility, talk to your medical provider!)

Nourishing Our Minds and Spirits Means:


As we focus on what’s most important, we have the opportunity to strengthen bonds with family and friends. Spending quality time with loved ones, creating lasting memories, and offering support when needed can be one of the most rewarding aspects of your third act. Human connection, from casual, friendly interactions to deeper, more intimate relationships are key to healthy aging. If you are familiar with blue zones, you may know that human connections are equally important as genetics, diet, exercise, or financial wealth in influencing quality and length of life.


Many third-acters find fulfillment in giving back to their communities through volunteering. Sharing your knowledge, skills, and experience with others can be incredibly rewarding and provide a sense of purpose, and even legacy.


These years invite a reprise of the questions, "What is life all about?" "What is it for?" It is a natural time for evaluating how we have used our lives, accepting ourselves and our actions and choices, making any amends, and resolving how to use those opportunities ahead of us to marshall our resources and strengths to align our lives with what we think they ought to be.

In conclusion,

The third act is a journey filled with both challenges and opportunities. While the complexities of financial planning, adapting to a new identity, and addressing health concerns can be daunting, the chance to pursue passions, engage in lifelong learning, travel, strengthen relationships, and give back to the community can make the third act a truly fulfilling chapter of life.

With planning, intentionality, and a positive mindset, it

can be a time of personal growth, self-discovery, contentment, and joyful experiences. So, embrace this new phase of life, and make it your own.

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