Exploring ‘Adulthood II’

What will yomary catherine batesonu do with your not-so-old age? Today, life expectancy is nearly 78, up from 50 a century ago. Nearly 40 percent of people aged 55 and older are in the labor force, up from 30 percent just a decade ago. The cultural anthropologist Mary Catherine Bateson has emerged as one of our country’s leading voices on the challenges and rewards of this new time in life.

A visiting scholar at the Sloan Center on Aging & Work at Boston College, she is the author of numerous books, including “With a Daughter’s Eye: A Memoir of Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson’’ (HarperCollins, 2001) and “Composing A Further Life: The Age of Active Wisdom’’ (Knopf, 2010). She divides her time between homes in Cambridge and Hancock, N.H. She recently spoke with the Globe about the new life stage that she calls “Adulthood II.’’

Isn’t it both exciting and daunting to realize that you might have decades left in your life after the traditional retirement age?

It’s important to emphasize the newness of this situation. Anything we were told about what we wanted to do in retirement 30 years ago is out of date. Nobody knew at the time the likelihood that we would have an extended period of health and potential productivity. Everything we were told was about leisure and how you can play. That’s one thing people have to realize, they’re facing a new situation, and it’s an exciting new situation. Now is a time for pioneers – people need to pioneer different ways of experiencing and translating what has seemed most important to them all their lives.

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