The Fourth Age as a Specific Field for the Expression of Agency Cover Image

Čtvrtý věk jako specifické pole pro vyjádření aktérství
The Fourth Age as a Specific Field for the Expression of Agency

Author(s): Marcela Petrová Kafková, Tatiana Sedláková
Subject(s): Gerontology
Published by: Sociologický ústav AV ČR, v.v.i.
Keywords: fourth age; oldest-old; agency; independence; life course; autonomy; active ageing; frailty; identity

Summary/Abstract: The concept of the fourth age has until recently been an overlooked topic in social gerontology, which in past decades has focused more closely on the third age. This article provides an overview of commonly applied definitions of the fourth age. It focuses on concepts that do not view the fourth age as an unavoidable stage in life but rather as a stage in which the shared vulnerabilities and responsibilities for care that some older adults may experience need to be recognised. The article devotes a more in-depth discussion to the issue of agency in the fourth age, the possibilities for the existence of agency, and forms of agency. It challenges the idea that the fourth age is a stage in life without agency and argues that agency can be identified through its relational definitions. It also highlights the problems of understanding independence in the context of advanced old age. The article draws attention to the risk of greater polarisation in old age that lies in the positive value ascribed in current social gerontology to the dominant concept of the third age and in associating the negative stereotypes of old age with just the fourth age. The conclusion highlights the problems surrounding the possibility of active ageing in the fourth age.

  • Issue Year: 53/2017
  • Issue No: 5
  • Page Range: 719-735
  • Page Count: 17
  • Language: Czech