Day 83: Jane Fonda on life’s third act.

We are in the longevity revolution. On average, we live 30 years longer than our great grandparents. Life’s third act begins between the ages of 50-60, when society would traditionally perceive the individual as being on a downward slope; whether this be of physical function or general happiness. We constantly fear getting older; the incidence of depression or onset of illness serving as stark reminders of the transient nature of life. In this talk, Jane Fonda speaks from her own, ‘third act’ to remind us it needn’t be all doom and gloom.
Interestingly, research consistently shows the over 50s are happier and more settled. Fonda refers to this as the upward staircase. By looking at aging as a staircase, it allows us to recognise its potential to lead us upwards into wisdom, wholeness and authenticity. The human spirit is exempt from aging. Women in particular are born with tremendous spirit, which sometimes can become trapped under the strains of daily living. This leads us to feel unfinished and disillusioned. Our reactions to past hurts, abuse, loss or relationship breakdown cause our nervous pathways to rewire; over time, these changes become hard-wired and affect our outlook on the world.
It’s commonly said that in order to know where we are going, we have to know where we’ve been. What about the relationship with our parents, for example? Can we look at them as people and recognise the problems they may have experienced? Our quality of life is determined by how we relate to realities and the state of mind we allow them to trigger. This allows us to change our relationship to the past. Having experiences doesn’t make us wise; rather, wisdom is achieved through reflection on experiences.
Using the third act of life, or indeed any stage, to reflect on where we’ve been allows us to redefine ourselves. It also serves as an excellent example to the younger generation as they face into climbing the upwards staircase.

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