From Publishers Weekly
Picking up where she left off in Composing a Life (1991), anthropologist Bateson interviews six older individuals, from a retired Maine boatyard worker to Jane Fonda, who have accomplished most of their life goals but actively seek new and satisfying ways to live robust lives. Adulthood II, as Bateson call this period, is characterized by the wisdom culled from long lives and rich experience combined with freedom from the day-to-day responsibilities of work and raising children. Life in this stage is an "improvisational art form calling for imagination and the willingness to learn." Bateson follows Hank Lawson, a former boatyard metalworker, and his wife, Jane, from Maine to their retirement in Tucson, Ariz. There Hank turned his knowledge of tools and metal to making jewelry from precious metals and semiprecious stones. Liberated by the move from the ocean to the mountains, the Lawsons are flourishing, continually learning new things and refashioning their lives in a new place. Because Bateson lets various people retell their own stories of grappling with the challenges and the freedom of Adulthood II, her book is a deep meditation on the value of longevity and an inspiring testimony to the power and possibilities that come with growing older.
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Bateson—anthropology professor, visiting scholar at the Center on Aging and Work/Workplace Flexibility at Boston College, and author of the best-selling Composing a Life (1991)—here elucidates her concept of an emerging second stage of adulthood that precedes old age that she labels Adulthood II. Today’s grandparents, she says, are increasingly able to combine continuing mobility with their depth of experience, hence, the age of active wisdom. This model has been a work-in-progress for Bateson, its genesis the time she spent as a teaching assistant for the psychologist Erik Erikson’s course on the human life cycles, or eight ages of man. She looked to his theories as she passed through stages of her own life, and now, in her seventies, she interviews others who are doing similar research on this enriched stage of adulthood—including such individuals as Jane Fonda—and who are searching for the relationship between spirituality and age. Especially in light of 9/11, Bateson considers herself an activist for peace and justice and stresses the importance, in our years of unanticipated longevity, to continue to be willing to learn. --Deborah Donovan