Tag Archives: Mary Catherine Bateson

Jane Fonda on the “Third Act” of Life

On my way to a yoga class last week, I caught a few minutes of an interview with Jane Fonda on the Diane Rehm Show (from WAMU).

In the interview, they discuss Fonda’s new book, Prime Time: Love, health, sex, fitness, friendship, spirit–making the most of all of your life.

To hear the complete interview or read the transcript go to» http://thedianerehmshow.org/shows/2011-08-11/jane-fonda-prime-time

REHM: But it does seem to me that for a great many people, getting older is tough. There are illnesses. There are problems with family. There is loss of a job. There’s lack of money. People have tons of problems to get through. But you have lots of advantages. You’re healthy. You’re athletic. You’ve kept your body strong. You’ve kept your mind going and you’ve got plenty of money.

FONDA: Let me say two things about that, Diane. That is all true and yet there’s been studies done. There was one, a very large study done of 350,000 Americans from very young age to very old age and what it showed is that most people over 50 tend to be happier, less hostile, less stressed, less anxious. The scientists don’t entirely understand why, but they postulate certain things that make sense to me.


Fonda also uses a metaphor from Mary Catherine Bateson’s recent book Composing a Further Life: The Age of Active Wisdom. “We have not added decades to life expectancy by simply extending old age; instead, we have opened up a new space partway through the life course, a second and different kind of adulthood that precedes old age, and as a result every stage of life is undergoing change.”

Recommended Reading: The Third Chapter

The Third Chapter

I just finished reading The Third Chapter: Passion, Risk, and Adventure in the 25 years After 50 by Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot (sociologist and Harvard professor).

The subtitle really says it all. In the book, she writes about using the years after 50 for learning in 3 domains: body, voice, and soul – “the kind of learning you can only do in your full maturity.” I think it will resonate with many of my yoga colleagues and students.

We’ve exchanged a lot of stories about what we want to do next – how we want our lives to change – and the changes we’ve already made.

“…seeking new ways of learning and living that cut against the grain of traditional definitions of achievement, success and mastery that are typically reinforced in our society.”

She also writes about “3 assumptive positions”

  1. educative necessity = help people see “how they got to be who they are”
  2. everything is incremental
  3. be “immensely creative” in launching and sustaining any project

The 2nd seems useful to remember in our yoga teaching – both for ourselves and for our students. And the 3rd describes the stories so many of us have shared about how we are reinventing our lives.

There are a lot of stories in the book – based on interviews with people making those profound changes in their lives. My one quibble with the book is that I’m not sure how applicable it is to the population in general. You have to have a fair amount of financial security to do this.

Link to Amazon: The Third Chapter: Passion, Risk, and Adventure in the 25 years After 50