Wrestling with age and money!: Facing down issues by learning

The Author

E. Alana James

E. Alana James

Dr E Alana James is reinventing herself again! Coming full circle to the first love of her life - art - and bringing back to her images all the lessons of her life as author, researcher, academic and wife. Concerned mostly with the idea of images as vehicles for expression of the truth of our inner and outer life experience.

The “age old” issues of life are haunting me- Age and Money.  Well, I can’t REALLY say they are haunting me – rather I am haunting them. Webster defines “haunt” as “to visit often, to continually seek the company of.”  I am sure you can understand why I would haunt money – by these definitions, who wouldn’t?  But Age?


I’ll be 60 years old next birthday, and just a few short months ago, as I turned 59, I found that I could not say -”60.”  It sounded in my ears much like, “lions and tigers and bears..oh my!  Lions and tigers and BEARS!”  Using the analogy of our intrepid friends on the yellow brick road, I decided to look my fears right in the face and get to learning my way past them.

What have I learned about age?

There are pockets all over the world where people live to over 100 on a much greater than usual average.  About 25% of these live independently.  Who wouldn’t want to live to be 100+ if the odds were in our favour of good physical, mental, emotional and financial health?  What does it take to even the odds?

Catherine Bateson (a scholar who was also the daughter of Margaret Mead) says that because of the growing world population over the age of 60 it is as though we have added another room on our house – in this case our world culture.  She discusses the meaning/options now available in this new room, one that she calls Adulthood II. Very few of us have memories of our parents at these advanced ages, and if we do, they are not necessarily models we wish to emulate ourselves.  Like intrepid explorers , those living centenarians are charting new territory. 

I am just starting to consider Adulthood II, so I have few answers for myself besides a commitment to keep learning, stay actively aware and continually flexible.  Lessons come through reading about the research people have done on living longer, especially through reading and knowing people who are twenty or more years older than I am.  They chart a course in seas I have not yet encountered and many are blogging about it.

First we have to consider that lifestyle far outweigh the power imposed by our genes.  Certainly health challenges may run in families, but there are always exceptions to the rule and if we orchestrate a healthy lifestyle and work consistently at it we will go far.  Bodies need regular exercise and wholesome fuel.  This is true also for mental emotional and financial wellbeing.  Our minds need challenges, especially those that end with our continuing to contribute to the world around us.  Our emotions require that we stay connected to others and that we have occasion to laugh frequently.  

What have I learned about money?

Financial health also requires that we pay attention, stay out of debt and diversify our income streams so that we can weather national or global challenges.  The health of the world’s economy likely will impact our own, and while many have been fortunate to retire well, this will likely be the case less and less often in the future.  Indeed this seems to be a time (as my Mother would have said) not to “have all your eggs in one basket.”

Entrepreneurs risk their time and resources on the one hand but continue to contribute to their community, live a life that requires flexibility, and add to their cash flow on the other.  Many, like myself, came wired to be entrepreneurs and with that are familiar with, and perhaps have some skills in place that will see us pursuing new businesses well into adulthood II.  It may be a worthy consideration for all to investigate what diversified income streams are available, ones that have not previously been available.

Forming a new vision

Adulthood II and beyond requires that we craft a new picture of older years – kicking out the ideas of frailty, being infirm and replacing them with, not images of zen masters sitting in lotus position in paradise, but with grey haired strong bodies, easily climbing the hills around where we live and across the world.  Thriving centenarians discuss moving beyond the cares of the world into ever increasing appreciation of it.  We live in a time when we can all embrace new futures in later years.

As Catherine Bateson reminds us, what we do with this new room in our house is up to us.  Will we fill it with junk or make it an art studio?  Will we bury ourselves there or embrace things that are new and exciting, things that open us to new visions of the world?  As with everything else, the choice is ours.  One of my favorite teachers points out that because we determine how we think and feel, we determine our entire lives.