A lot of friends are turning 60 this year—those born in 1959, a turning-point year for our culture.
We are given many gifts in life, including the experience of having major life odometer changeovers: turning 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90. Each of these new decades brings new perspectives on our lives ahead, and each decade has its own unique set of challenges and opportunities.
For many, the 20s are about establishing identities and figuring out career interests and how to make ends meet. The thirties can be about focusing on career and starting families. The 40s (awesome decade) can be about career and family achievement. The fifties are a time of going pedal-to-the-metal with life and trying to live it to the fullest. It’s around this time that mortality hits many of us in the face and presents us with lots of questions.
“In many cultures in the Asia-Pacific, turning 60 is considered a time of rebirth,” says Michi Holley Jones, a brilliant acupuncturist and yoga teacher in Molokai, Hawaii. “It’s a time when you can really settle into your chi, be who you are, and be a sage and advisor to others.”
One of the early readers of “Write, Open, Act: An Intentional Life Planning Workbook” was Norene Gonsiewski, MSW, LSCW, a phenomenal counselor in Central Oregon and author of “Rock Solid Relationship.” After her initial read, she advised me to include special instructions for people 60+.
“Having studied this age group’s issues extensively, many have planned financially for retirement, and yet they haven’t considered what they want their relationship to look like,” Gonsiewski notes. She also says this group has the highest-growing rate of divorce. “Having a strong life plan could put the zest back in your relationship,” she says
“Write, Open, Act” calls out 5 trends all of us should consider:
- The notion of “retirement” is changing for a host of reasons. We may not ever be financially able to retire, or maybe the word is just out of date.
- We’re living longer, which requires different planning. It used to be unusual to know someone over 90. How many do you know now?
- We’re entering our third act, not our fourth. You can completely reinvent yourself now—or you can choose to approach life differently.
- Your life’s purpose may rise to a new challenge. A lot of people, women especially, who have sacrificed greatly for their families may want to take on a completely new challenge. Have you considered running for office?
- Relationships will change and grow. To Norene’s point above, how can you reconnect with your partner and rediscover that intimacy and passion? Should your partner start to fail––or die tomorrow––how will you manage your life? And if you’re single, do you like it and want to remain so?
There are lots of family and societal scripts about aging––most of which are bullshit. Your grandparents might have thought age 60 was the time to start preparing for death. Young people and prospective employers may see someone with gray hair and think, “They’re old.”
Fight it. Reinvent. Go create (see this Laura M. Holson New York Times article for ideas). Go do something magnificent for the world. Create art. Do something for yourself that you’ve always wanted to do.
There are 12 questions in the “Exercises for People 60+” starting on page 56 of “Write, Open, Act” to help you evaluate your life to date and to reinvent and plan for the future (as this author is taking a full year to do now).
The human species is extremely resilient. Thankfully, we have great capacity to reinvent and begin again. What if 60+ is an opportunity to start again? Jane Fonda did it. Laura Ingalls Wilder began writing the “Little House” series at 60. Bruce Springsteen wrote a book and took on Broadway.
As Vampire Weekend sings in their gorgeous 2019 single “Harmony Hall,” “I don’t wanna live like this, but I don’t wanna die.” Your life is your greatest gift; don’t take a second of it for granted.
As the great Oregon runner Steve Prefontaine said, “To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.”
Write, update or reinvent your Intentional Life Plan now. Don’t wait.
Need further inspiration? Take a look at these lists (and Google your own):