Ageing and Society

How many people are there in the third age?

a1 Centre for Policy on Ageing, London.

Article author query
midwinter e   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 


With reference to the concept of ‘the stages of life’ rather than ‘ages’, this paper examines the possibilities of estimating population figures for the First, Second and Third Ages in the United Kingdom, both for the present and at points in the past. The approach utilises the economic status of the citizenry – in particular, before, during and after paid work – rather than their ages or birth dates. The quantitative approximations are accompanied by a social commentary about the leverage of economic pressures, especially the calls or otherwise of employment, in effect, the Second Age, on the relative size of the First and Third Ages. It is concluded that much may be gained from ‘redrawing the composition of the population with social rather than demographic contours’.

(Accepted August 4 2004)

Key Words: historical demography; age structure; third age; United Kingdom.

c1 Eric Midwinter, Centre for Policy on Ageing, 19-23 Ironmonger Row, London EC1V 3QP. e-mail: