Adding a room

Downsizing. The catchword for aging, right? Our physical reality, our challenge, our freedom.

But Mary Catherine Bateson, in Composing a Further Life: The Age of Active Wisdom, offers an intriguing image of upsizing for this stage. (Thanks to MaryAnn Halteman Conrad for alerting me to Bateson’s work.) Imagine, she says, that you have the resources to add a room, or enlarge one, in your house. What room will you choose? And how will it affect how you live in the house?

Adding a room, Bateson says, is what longevity is like.

In Canada, average life expectancy increased 24.6 years between 1921 (57.1) and 2011 (81.7). That’s a big room added to the human house in 90 years, which has significantly altered the shape and flow of how we live.

I snagged on the gift-of-an-extra-room idea as a fun way to think about my current priorities or desires. Which room? How will it look? How affect the rest? I see a friend with a photography room. Another has added a room to re-settle refugees. (I speak metaphorically.) I’ll gladly keep my kitchen small at this point but since I’m doing some memoir-type writing I visualize an archives/library room where I can watch memory filmstrips, spread papers and documents, organize, spot patterns and narrative. Archives need a cool, darkish environment, but my imaginary room will definitely have to have a garden door to the outside world and lives of younger people. I’ll need to keep present realities in my eye and not get clouded by ancient dust.



9 thoughts on “Adding a room

  1. I am enjoying my “extra room” right now, as I’m 75 and in relatively good health. I was so busy with studies and teaching from age 40 to 65; an enjoyable “busy”, but now I have entered a more relaxed stage where I can take time to cook and bake, garden and take leisurely walks i, host friends in my home, read and write when I feel like it, without deadlines. I am acutely aware that my time on earth is short (is that a deadline as well?) and so I enjoy it in a different way than I did before. Thanks Dora, for sharing this unique idea of an extra room in my life!


  2. Love your blog discussions. My retirement room is a physical and spiritual space. My garden. It’s teaching me about aging, about roots and adaptability and much more.


  3. What a wonderful concept – to upsize!! I watch The Voice and in one episode Alycia Keys invited her contestants into the piano studio she used. I would like a photography study just like that, including the grand piano! I wish I had a photo to show you 😉 It was open, spacious, no clutter, quiet, airy, soft sheer window coverings, lots of natural light, soft places to sit, colors muted, soft greens, neutrals, white. For me it was that literal white space. I believe calmness and serenity helps develop our passions and be the person we were created to be. Chaos and clutter and noise are somehow just not conducive to being creative.


    • Sounds wonderful, and the way you describe it! I have two friends who “do” photography (and my brother) and was actually thinking of you two in the reference in the post. Because to me you’re already adding that room, a room that, as I see it, is that place of “calmness and serenity”. But a literal, physical studio would be wonderful too, wouldn’t it!


  4. I was just talking to friend about how the stairs in her home are becoming more difficult, about the need to relocate to a single level. My husband and I volunteered to visit at a care home last night because the elevator has been broken for three week, trapping residents on their respective floors. Your post about up-and down-sizing made me think of Isaiah (and Handel after him): “every valley will be exalted (up) and every mountain and hill made low (down), the crooked straight and the rough places plain.” As we age, we need life to level, and maybe that could also be a metaphor for what we offer others: help to make their path smoother as well.


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