Jane Fonda On Living Well, Making the Most of Your Life

PHOTO: Jane Fondas new book, "Prime Time," is pictured.
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Jane Fonda is a legend and an icon.

An actress, fitness guru, entrepreneur, philanthropist and political activist, Fonda got her start in show business as a fashion model on the cover of Vogue magazine.

She has had a long, distinguished career in Hollywood, but one that has not been without controversy.

Fonda's vocal opposition of the Vietnam War was met with outrage. She has apologized for some of what she said and did, but even today, some veterans still harbor resentment towards the actress.

The two-time Academy Award winning actress is also well known for a series of fitness videos she starred in over the years, inspiring millions of women to lose weight, and sparking an exercise craze.

PHOTOS: Sexy Hollywood Stars Over 40

And, today, the 70-something icon is known for staying young, fit and sexy, well into what she calls the "third act" of her illustrious life.

She's teaching others how to feel their best through her writing and philanthropic efforts, and reaching how to a whole new generation of fans through her Twitter (@janefonda) handle,and her personal Facebook page.

Read an excerpt from "Prime Time: Love, Health, Sex, Fitness, Friendship, Spirit--Making the Most of All Your Life " below, then check out some other books in the "GMA" library

Preface

The past empowers the present, and the groping footsteps leading to this present mark the pathways to the future. —Mary Catherine Bateson

Several years ago, I was coming to the end of my sixties and facing my seventies, the second decade of what I thought of as the Third Act of my life— Act III, which, as I see it, begins at age sixty. I was worried. Being in my sixties was one thing. Given good health, we can fudge our sixties. But seventy—now, that's serious. In our grandparents' time, people in their seventies were considered part of the "old old" . . . on their way out. However, a revolution has occurred within the last century— a longevity revolution. Studies show that, on average, thirty- four years have been added to human life expectancy, moving it from an average of forty- six years to eighty! This addition represents an entire second adult lifetime, and whether we choose to confront it or not, it changes everything, including what it means to be human.

Adding a Room

The social anthropologist (and a friend of mine) Mary Catherine Bateson has a metaphor for living with this longer life span in view. She writes in her 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." Bateson uses the identifiable metaphor of what happens when a new room is added to your home. It isn't just the new room that is different; every other part of the house and how it is used is altered a bit by the addition of this room. In the house that is our life, things such as planning, marriage, love, finances, parenting, travel, education, physical fitness, work, retirement—our very identities, even!—all take on new meaning now that we can expect to be vital into our eighties and nineties. . . or longer.

But our culture has not come to grips with the ways the longevity revolution has altered our lives. Institutionally, so much of how we do things is the same as it was early in the twentieth century, with our lives segregated into age- specific silos: During the first third we learn, during the second third we produce, and the last third we presumably spend on leisure. Consider, instead, how it would look if we tore down the silos and integrated the activities.

For example, let's begin to think of learning and working as a lifelong challenge instead of something that ends when you retire. What if the wonderfully empowering feeling of being productive can be experienced by children early in life, and if they know from first grade that education will be an expected part of their entire lives? What if the second, traditionally productive silo is braided with leisure and education? And seniors, with twenty or more productive years left, can enjoy leisure time while remaining in the workforce in some form and attending to education if for no other reason than to challenge their minds?

Envisioned this way, longevity becomes like a symphony with echoes of different times recurring with slight modifications, as in music, across the life arc. Except that we don't have the sheet music to this new symphony. We— today's boomers and seniors— are the pioneer generations, the ones who need to compose together a template for how to maximize the potential of this amazing gift of time, so as to become whole, fully realized people over the longer life arc.

In attempting to chart a course for myself into my sixties and beyond, I've found it helpful to view the symphony of my own life in three acts, or three major developmental stages: Act I, the first three decades; Act II, the middle three decades; and Act III, the final three decades (or however many more years one is granted). As I searched for ways to understand the new realities of aging, I discovered the arch and the staircase.

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