Is this the Fourth Age of life? I can identify in retrospect three previous ages - childhood, adolescence/maturing, and manhood. Now there's something quite different emerging. The physical clues are all around: letters from the pensions agencies, offers of flu-jabs, bowel cancer screening, little blue pills, public transport passes, aortic aneurysm assessment, free eye-tests, winter fuel payment. But it's the inner awareness rather than the physical and medical aspects of ageing that are most significant.

Sharing with colleagues in various networks over the past year, I've realised that we have several traits in common today. I've taken to calling these the (literal) pensioner-grandfather characteristics. These seem to mark the transition into a Fourth Age of life.

These energies are quite different to all that has gone before:

  • I'm 'economically inactive' in the official statistics
  • I volunteer instead of working
  • I withdraw into solitude
  • I tend to contemplate rather than act
  • I'm far less (dis)stressed
  • I maintain a low profile - a much-diminished sense of ego.

My partner is more than two decades younger, and it's clear that he lives in a quite different way. His age/life is one of work, earning, activity, caring, responsibility and much else.

The energies of the Fourth Age feel to be more concerned with mentoring, eldership, dawning wisdom, and a longer-term reflection. There is far more letting-go - of possessions, behaviours, responsibilities, commitments, prejudices, expectations and needs.

It makes me wonder what successive ages - if there are more to come in this life - might bring, and how my inner awareness will continue to reveal new insights and self-knowledge.