The Third Age

We all know that there is a trend toward an older society and, in turn, an older workforce. This trend is rooted in decreased birth rates, economic challenges facing those of traditional retirement age, and a changing definition of what constitutes “old.”  Some theorists even champion the idea of the “third age”—a period between middle age and the elderly years where older workers still seek to be active contributors to society and the workplace. Pitt-Catsouphes & Matz-Costa are great believers in the third age, going so far as to say that the third age is compatible with Eriksonian thought, which espoused all stages of life as periods of growth (p. 218).

In their 2008 article “The Multi-Generational Workforce: Workplace Flexibility and Engagement,” Pitt-Catsouphes & Matz-Costa document their investigation into older employee engagement.  The researchers surveyed 183,454 employees at twenty-two companies. They found that the majority of respondents—regardless of age—valued employer flexibility, which is defined as a certain amount of freedom to decide on the way the employee works (e.g., later reporting times, working from home, etc.). However, those who valued flexibility the most—and who reported that employee flexibility increased their engagement with their work and their employer—were respondents aged 45 years and older. Based upon this finding, the researchers suggested that employers explore ways in which they could increase flexible work arrangements for all employees–third agers or not.


Pitt-Catsouphes, M., & Matz-Costa, C. (2008). The multi-generational workforce: Workplace flexibility and engagement. Community, Work & Family, 11(2), 215-229. doi:10.1080/13668800802021906