Gloucester District U3A

Life-long learning

The Third Age


By the Hon Dr Barry

O. Jones, AO

National Patron, U3AAA

The English social historian Dr Peter Laslett coined the term ‘The Third Age’ to describe a new demographic category, people who had left the paid workforce, were physically and mentally capable and independent, likely to live to an advanced age before the onset of ‘the Fourth Age‘ – the period of dependence, decrepitude and death.

The first univerisité du troisomé age (UTA) was founded in Toulouse in February 1973, by Pierre Vellas. In 1981, Peter Laslett and Michael Young established the first British University of the Third Age (U3A), and from there the movement has spread throughout the world.

Modern life expectancy and retirement practice mean that most traditional assumptions about age are wrong. The fundamental error, as Laslett wrote, is ‘confusing the Third Age with the Fourth Age’. Many people now living will spend more years in‘retirement’, however defined, than in paid work.

U3A is a movement which enables people in their Third Age to continue and share the journey of life-long learning.

I entered the Third Age in 1996, on ceasing to be a Member of the Australian Parliament. My ambition is to spend the longest possible time in the Third Age and the shortest in the Fourth.