Flourishing in the Third Third of Life

Based upon the promise in Psalm 92:12-14

The righteous will flourish like the palm tree,
and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
They are planted in the house of the LORD;
they flourish in the courts of our God.
In old age they still produce fruit;
they are always green and full of sap.


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A Welcome Letter from Mark Roberts that Explains This Initiative

Greetings! Welcome to the De Pree Center’s Third Third Initiative! We have begun this initiative to enable people in the “third third” of life to flourish in all they do, for their own sake and for the sake of God’s work in the world. . . . (To read more of this letter, click here.)

Some Helpful Resources for the Third Third

Key Articles:

We Need a Biblical Vision for Flourishing in the Third Third of Life, by Mark Roberts

Flourishing in the Third Third of Life: The Promise of Psalm 92, by Mark Roberts

You’ll find many other articles in our Third Third Blog.

You Can Help Us as We Produce Resources that Really Matter

As we begin to do our biblical and academic research on the third third, and then as we take our research and turn it into resources and experiences that will be helpful to you, we’d love to hear from you. We’ll create the best stuff if we listen well to those we’re seeking to serve, people like you! You can help us in this listening task in a couple of ways. First, you can email Mark Roberts, the Lead of our Third Third Initiative. Mark’s email address is markroberts-at-fuller.edu (with a normal @ sign, of course). Second, you can fill out a short survey on the third third. It would be great to have your input at this early stage of our work.

Fill Out the Survey

Recommended Books

Aging Matters: Finding Your Calling for the Rest of Your Life, by R. Paul Stevens – One of the best Christian books on the third third of life, especially the last years. Offers wisdom, encouragement, and hope based on God’s calling of all people.

The Third Third of Life: Preparing for Your Future, by Walter C. Wright, Jr. – Former Executive Director of the De Pree Center. Popularized the phrase “third third.” Lots of wisdom and personal stories.

An Uncommon Guide to Retirement: Finding God’s Purpose for the Next Season of Life, by Jeff Haanen – Biblical wisdom for how to think about retirement, with lots of examples of people flourishing after they retire from their primary occupations.

Brain Rules for Aging Well: 10 Principles for Staying Vital, Happy, and Sharp, by John Medina – Fascinating look by a brain scientist at what happens to your brain in the third third of life. Includes lots of suggestions for how to flourish in this season of life.

Fascinating Videos on Third Third Flourishing

What makes a good life? Lessons from the longest study on happiness, a TED talk by Robert Waldinger, professor at Harvard Medical School and Director of the Study of Adult Development at Harvard University. Waldinger asks, “What keeps us healthy and happy as we go through life? If you were going to invest now in your future best self, where would you put your time and your energy?”

Purposeful Retirement, a lecture by Dr. Amy Hanson, “a speaker, writer, and consultant with a passion to help older adults discover a life of Christ-centered meaning and purpose.” Hanson syas, “Baby-boomers marching into retirement in a radically different way. . . . I think God is up to something. . . . It’s an opportunity that I believe should not be wasted.” One of the excellent resources on retirement from the Denver Institute of Faith & Work.

Ellen Snyder – St. Francis Center. The moving story of a woman who lives purposefully in the third third. Snyder says, “I’m 91. So, why should I stop doing what I’ve always done, just because I’m a certain age. It doesn’t make sense to me. As long as I’m healthy and well, I want to keep on doing the things I do.” Another resource from the Denver Institute.

J.I. Packer on aging and the battle against sin. An honest conversation about again by a wise theologian. Packer shares some of the challenges of getting older, “I am aware that I am an old man. After 8:00 I’m beginning to nosedive into weariness. By 9:00 I’m pretty well zombified. . . . My wife can still go on to my amazement until 1:00 in the morning firing full steam. And she’s only six months younger than I am.”

Older people are happier, by Laura Cartensen. A TED talk by the director of the Stanford Center of Longevity. She says, “[T]he more we learn about aging, the clearer it becomes that a sweeping downward course is grossly inaccurate. Aging brings some rather remarkable improvements — increased knowledge, expertise — and emotional aspects of life improve. That’s right, older people are happy. They’re happier than middle-aged people, and younger people, certainly.”

Why we should embrace aging as an adventure, by Carl Honoré. Here is the official description of this recent TED talk: “We need to feel better about aging in order to age better, says writer and activist Carl Honoré. How? In this spirited talk, Honoré offers a set of simple solutions to combat ageism — as well as a host of trailblazers and changemakers who came into their own later in life, from artists and musicians to physicists and business leaders.”

The Formula for Successful Aging, by Gary Small. Here’s the description of the TED-UCLA talk by Gary Small, Professor of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences and Parlow-Solomon Professor on Aging at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA: “Recent scientific evidence is compelling that lifestyle habits have a significant impact on cognitive health and successful longevity; but the many reports are sometimes confusing and contradictory. This session will explain and highlight relevant new discoveries and translate them into practical strategies for improving memory performance, optimizing brain health, and living better longer.”

Centers Doing Excellent Work on the Third Third:

Stanford Center on Longevity – The Center’s goal is to foster innovation and accelerate social and cultural change on the issues of longevity.

Center for Retirement Research at Boston College – Recognized by the New York Times as “…the nation’s leading center on retirement studies,” their research covers any issue affecting individuals’ income in retirement.

Startups by Grownups – A community of support, motivation, and insights for the older entrepreneur.

Learn More About Third Third

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We Want to Hear from You!

As we develop our Third Third Initiative, we would love to hear from you. We have put together a short survey and would appreciate your input. If you could give us 5 to 7 minutes of your time, we’d be most grateful.

Go the the Third Third Survey
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Third Third Life Newsletter

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Third Third Welcome Letter

We have begun this initiative to enable people in the “third third” of life to flourish in all they do, for their own sake and for the sake of God’s work in the world. Soon, we will produce a wide-variety of materials and experiences to help folks flourish in the third third of life. We will also point people to excellent resources produced by others.