We are - some of us at least - living longer than ever. This has created a huge market for advice givers and commentators of every persuasion, from the scientific to the wryly humorous. They are part of a long tradition of reflections, whether philosophical, literary or religious, that aim to fit ageing into life's overall narrative: how do we define it, and how is it experienced? As with all phases of life, the third age is to a large extent a social construct whose shape varies in different epochs and cultures. This course explores a variety of attitudes to the subject from the psalms to the present day, from Cicero to Tolstoy, and from Francis Bacon to Diana Athill. Can we find in the ensuing composite picture any points of universal validity?