Jane Fonda on aging and happiness

In her new book, Prime Time, the 74-year-old actress and L'Oreal spokesmodel discovers that people over age 50 tend to be happier. Here, she shares what it's like living in her prime

Jane Fonda

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“Believe me, when you’re ‘inside’ the aging bracket, which I am now, it’s a whole lot better than when you’re looking at it from the outside. It used to terrify me. When I was 40, and I imagined my 70s . . . First of all I never thought I’d live that long; second, I thought it would be horrible. But I’ve never been happier, and I come from a long line of depressives: My mother killed herself and my father went undiagnosed. When I was in my late 40s I would wake up every morning with a lot of negative thoughts. And then at about 65 I began to notice that I was really happy and I wanted to know why. That’s what made me write the book Prime Time. I spent four years researching it and discovered that most people over 50, regardless of their sex, regardless of a lot of things, tend to be happier. Like Picasso said, it takes a long time to become young. But staying physically active is key to it, because as long as you feel alive from inside, age can be a fantastic thing.”

I’m definitely not running anymore — I have a fake hip and a fake knee — but I am getting back into the movie business, which I left quite deliberately for 15 years. I made a film in France a year ago and another one with Catherine Keener after that, so I have two coming out in spring and I’m going to do another next year. My daughter is half French and I’m fairly fluent. I fool people because my accent is not the typical American one, so people think I can speak better than I can. I learned in bed — it’s the best way to learn.”

Jane Fonda’s secrets:

Keeping fit: “Otherwise everything starts to go downhill.”

Being a mentor: “Assume the responsibility of passing things on. Katharine Hepburn did it for me.”