Aging Well: Life in the fourth quarter

I have never met 84 year-old Dede Casad in person, but judging from her book, The Fourth Quarter: The Hail Mary for Seniors, I imagine her to be a little like Judge Judy. Spunky, funny and no-nonsense. At least that is the tone of her new book which challenges the notion that retirees somehow deserve a life of leisure.

“Never in the history of humankind has a culture embraced such a non-productive, valueless philosophy as wholeheartedly as have Americans,” she writes. Seniors are still alive for a purpose and to back away from finishing the game is to deny that purpose.  As Casad sees it, the current group of retirees is probably the most educated, experienced and creative generation in history.

An entrepreneur with a Ph.D. in History of Ideas, Casad challenges seniors to get fired up and finish the game well, using a football analogy to make her points. She introduces her first string, a group of friends who meet for coffee at a local mall six mornings a week. She describes the support group as a cross-section of seniors with broad interests and viewpoints. The group members consider themselves to be vital, intelligent and fun. Together they debate, discuss and help each other to think beyond their own self-interests and perspectives. That life-giving force of community is essential for all older adults who want to make a difference with their lives.

Casad believes that the true enemy of aging is complacency. “We are still alive for a purpose,” she writes candidly. “To live as if the game is finished is to deny our very reason for being.” She encourages seniors to adopt a ‘forever beginning’ perspective on instead of heading to the sideline and giving up when life seems too much trouble.

Reading The Fourth Quarter made me think about a group of senior men I met a few years ago while speaking at a retirement community. Walking through the finished-out basement of the building, I could hear the sound of power tools. The staff person explained that it was their woodworking room. As I went inside, the men looked up, smiled, and invited me to see their projects. Some were carving and sanding; others were sawing and painting. Turns out they were making props for an elaborate miniature train display.

One man excitedly asked if I’d like to see their work-in-progress across the hall. I was amazed at the vast collection of model railroad cars that whizzed past familiar landmarks of America in a winter setting. I felt like a kid inside a snow globe of detailed perfection. Long stretches of train tracks meandered through snow-covered mountains and across intricate bridges. There were replicas of the White House, small-town main streets, seaports and churches with stained glass and tiny nativity scenes.

Soon I discovered that the trains had belonged to these residents who no longer had space for their expansive hobby in their apartments at the retirement community. So with support from the retirement community, they pooled their train resources and began to create an enormous magical wonderland of Americana.

But the magic didn’t stop there. These older men had wisely turned their hobby into a mission project. They explained that each year around Thanksgiving, they open the train exhibit to the public for several weeks then give all their profits to local missions.

“Giving yourself away is what keeps us young,” one man told me. The men talked about the joy of watching children step up on stools to get a good look at the holiday display.

Asked what they would do once they finished their display, the men looked a bit puzzled. “We will never be finished… until our last breath,” one finally responded. After reading Casad’s book, I look back and realize that these men understood how to play the game well in the Fourth Quarter of their lives!

UMR Columnist Missy Buchanan is a member of FUMC Rockwall, Texas and the author of several books, including the new Joy Boosters: 120 Ways to Encourage Older Adults. Reach her at:


Missy Buchanan, UMR Columnist

Missy Buchanan is a sought-after speaker on topics of older adult ministry and spiritual creativity, she brings passion and humor to many events for churches, organizations, and women’s groups. She has appeared on Good Morning America with co-host Robin Roberts and is the author of books including Living with Purpose in a Worn-Out Body: Spiritual Encouragement for Older Adults, Talking with God in Old Age: Meditations and Psalms, and Don’t Write My Obituary Just Yet: Inspiring Faith Stories for Older Adults. She has written for many publications including Presbyterians Today, Mature Years, Christian Association Serving Adults Ministries, Entrepreneur, and The Dallas Morning News.

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