Patterns and Milestone Experiences That Transform

Experiences TransformOne of the joys of getting older – let’s say 50 and beyond – is that we can look back and see patterns and milestones in our lives. Seeing the patterns can be instructive and helpful in many ways. In early mid-life, most of us experience the intensity of jobs/careers, community involvement, family relationships to nurture and support – and more. As we move into a different phase of life, we can take time to do this.  Experiences transform, and reflecting on them can be part of transforming your life after 50.

I will share some of my experience with this kind of reflection.

Some time ago, I had the opportunity to be one of several presenters who shared personal stories with a group from my church. It was a wonderful opportunity to look back and identify some patterns in my life. One of them was “expanding horizons” and I also identified milestone experiences that had shifted my life in new directions. Each of us can likely identify ways in which our horizons expanded and how that impacted us.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. captured the essence of that by saying, “”A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.”

I found it quite enjoyable to look at that pattern as if I were floating high above, getting the view from the drone, if you will. In my case, I saw an image of concentric circles and that pattern of expanding horizons. I could recognize experiences that launched me from one circle into another, and later into another as the years passed. The changes were more than geographic and included mental, spiritual, emotional and psychological expansions.

The geographic concentric circles started from growing up in a small town in Minnesota, to college in two other midwestern towns, to a summer in core city Chicago, Illinois to much of my adult life in inner city Minneapolis, Minnesota to a couple of years in suburban Orange County, California to the past eight years in Nashville, Tennessee. I can see concentric circles of relationship with a wider diversity of people and of awareness of regional and cultural differences.

In addition to these overlaid concentric circles, I can identify milestone experiences that changed the direction of my life in different ways. The first dramatic milestone was the summer spent in Chicago when I was 19 years old. It was a city immersion program sponsored by the American Lutheran Church in several cities around the country, with our team of six people coming from a small college in Decorah, Iowa. Prior to this, I had lived in homogeneous small towns, both growing up and in my prior two years of college.

Then here we were, working full time jobs and doing neighborhood work in the rest of our time out of a city church located just on the edge of the demarcation line between a white community and a black community. Oh – did I mention: it was the summer of 1966!! Tensions were high in cities across the country as the civil rights movement was in its peak years. During that summer, Aug. 5, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was in Chicago for an open housing march through an all-white neighborhood and he was hit in the head with a brick or a rock. This was the mood of the time.

The experiences of that summer turned my attention to being involved with the social issues of the day, and gave me clarity that I wanted to be involved in things that made a difference. As a result, I left college and moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota where I would spend my years from 20 to 60 living and working in the inner city.

I encourage you to reflect on the patterns and milestones in YOUR life. It will be life-affirming and may open up some possibilities for you to explore as you are transforming your life after 50.

I encourage you to get a nice journal that you really want to write in.  I love the “Tree of Life” motif, and these are refillable, which is a plus.  Check out this version using my affiliate link: Tree of Life Writing Journal

Innovation Around Housing for Seniors – Your Parents Now, You Later

InnovationThe Baby Boomer generation has been responsible, directly and indirectly, for vast changes within society as they moved through the life cycle. Sometimes we forget all that happened from the time of our large cohort being born after the end of World War II and through about 1964. It started with the housing boom as the young families being formed after the (mostly) men returned from military service. The whole list of innovations, revolutions and changed viewpoints is clearly more than I can address in this post.

Now this generation is changing what it means to be over 50, and especially over 65. There are multiple facets of this, but the one I want to talk about here is about housing and care beyond independent living. Baby Boomers are 71 and younger right now, and have dealt or are dealing with these issues for their parents. What is created now will impact us as we move into the ages where we cannot live alone in our own homes.

An extremely exciting project addressing this need is MAGIC, a pilot project being conducted in connection with the University of Southern Indiana (USI) in Evansville and Dr. Bill Thomas, a nationally-renowned expert on aging.

MAGIC is aimed at creating a cultural transformation related to aging in community (Read the full release). With support from AARP, Indiana AARP and numerous stakeholders, we will pioneer a new (and very old) way of living. MAGIC stands for: Multi-Ability, multiGenerational, Inclusive Community.

Our goal is to bring together people of different ages, with different abilities and from different backgrounds, and look at ways to inspire and sustain a genuine human community….

We will kick off the MAGIC Pilot Project this spring by co-designing a model smart home. This “MAGIC Model House” will serve as a demonstration home showcasing the latest accessibility design, smart-home connectivity and low cost modular prefabrication methods I’ve developed through my Minka Dwelling project. We designed the Minka as an affordable housing platform that can be adapted to meet the needs of people of different ages and abilities.

The full article can be found here: I Believe in MAGIC

What exciting possibilities there are in this project, and others that will be inspired because of it. We truly can change the depressing scenario embedded in many aging persons’ minds of ending their years in a nursing home that fails to provide a good quality of life for them.

The numbers, though not as current as would be most helpful, are these: “The aging of the baby boom generation could fuel a 75 percent increase in the number of Americans ages 65 and older requiring nursing home care, to about 2.3 million in 2030 from 1.3 million in 2010.” Source:  Fact Sheet: Aging in the United States from the Population Reference Bureau.

Alternatives such as MAGIC can be effective in improving quality of life in our later years. It’s time for the creativity and innovation of our generation to focus more on this and similar issues. I can hardly wait to see what we can do!!

Dr. Bill Thomas is an expert in aging issues. His book, Second Wind: Navigating the Passage to a Slower, Deeper, and More Connected Life covers a wide range of important topics.

5th Aging with Attitude Film Awards

Aging With Attitude


For the 5th year, Senior Planet has published its nominees for their Aging with Attitude Film Awards.

“As in earlier years, we’re nominating films released over the last year that embody ‘aging with attitude.’ The pressure is increasing in Hollywood to address ageism…. Here are some films with images about aging that were honest, strong, resilient, empowered, and well-rounded.”


The nominees among films released in 2017 are the following: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri, The Hero (starring Sam Elliott), The Midwife (from France with English subtitles), Lucky, and The Post (Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks).

Descriptions, trailers and where you can view each movie are included in this article: Aging With Attitude Film Awards

This list provides some great movie entertainment for us who are in the over-50 group as well as everyone who would like to see some good films. We can all benefit from positive depictions of people of all ages.

The Power of Our Questions

Power of Our QuestionsHave you ever (often?) realized that your fleeting thoughts and questions were all of the ‘What if this negative thing happened…’ variety? We can easily fall into that deep, dark hole. With negativity a far too steady diet in our lives, there can be days when it is hard to maintain a positive, hopeful approach to life.

If you are thinking of your future as the years pass by, it is easy to have negative images of aging dominate our thoughts, consciously and/or subconsciously. One of the most powerful things we can do as we anticipate and transform our years after 50 is adopt practices and habits that counteract those thoughts, images and mindset.

I have long been an advocate of one simple strategy: consciously switching our “what if downer” questions to “what if upper” questions. I first learned of this from Mendhi Audlin in her book, What If It All Goes Right and recommend it as a powerful tool to shift our mindset.

Louise Foerster, writer, reader, marketer, business story teller and new product imaginer, writes about the impact of what questions we ask ourselves as we face decisions, especially those involving significant risk. Rather than asking what is the worst that can happen – a common approach of coaches and friends – she advocates the opposite approach.

What is the best that could happen?
Now, that question gets my juices flowing. I can’t wait to imagine the best, the brightest, and the most wonderful and then ten billion times better beyond that. It is so flipping amazing that I can’t stop.

I inhabit the dream. I revel in bliss. I smile, recognizing that the best is so far beyond my small, safe imagining that I’ll have to wait until I get there to grab it tight and hug it as hard as I can. I imagine the view from the top of the mountain, endless majesty, beckoning me forward.
That is where I want to be.  What is the Best That Can Happen?

Yes! That is where I want to be also! As we anticipate, investigate and explore what it means to reinvent and transform our years after 50, this is a powerful approach. Every day we can ask, What is the best that could happen?

I recommend Mendhi Audlin’s book, What If It All Goes Right?: Creating a New World of Peace, Prosperity & Possibility

Questions can be so powerful – for reflection, writing prompts, journaling, discussions with friends, etc. The Question Book: What Makes You Tick can be a great tool. 

Searching for Clues to Your 3rd Act

Interest in the worldIf you are thinking about what your 3rd Act might be and how you want to craft those years ahead, there are a variety of strategies to consider. One of them is looking back to identify those activities and efforts you loved, excelled at and were recognized for in earlier parts of your life. Part of the process will be simply nostalgic. But taking it to another level can provide clues to things you may want to explore for your future.

I discussed this idea this post, Recapture Dreams That Still Excite You.  Psychologist and freelance writer Holly Lawrence suggests a similar approach in this article:
For Boomers to Find Their Next Act, It’s Back to Childhood .

She shares her personal story of going back to childhood memorabilia to unearth achievements, passions and things to reflect upon and provides additional resource links. She suggests 3 steps to research your childhood keepsakes to help find your next act:

1. Study your main character: you, as a child. Conduct an objective character study. What is the main character’s demeanor? Hint: candid childhood photos reveal more about your personality than posed smiley photos. Do your notes or diaries describe your career dreams? What do your report cards show? What interests do you have in common with the character today? What did you abandon that you’d like to reclaim?

2. Consider repurposing your childhood dreams and passions…. So analyze the characteristics of your childhood dream profession. For example, firefighters rescue people in trouble and save and protect members of the community. You can repurpose your dream by volunteering at the local fire station, becoming a social worker with displaced families or taking a fire safety course and teaching students what you learned.

3. Revise your life narrative and adjust to fit your goals.

Enjoy the process of trying to get back into your experiences as a child and young person. You may find some great clues and possibilities for transforming your years after 50 into a joyful 3rd act.

To explore more of these possibilities, check out Too Young to be Old – Love, Learn, Word, and Play as You Age

The Space Between

the space betweenMany of us who are 50 or over are thinking a lot about what’s next? If you are 50 or 60 or 70, the questions and possible answers may be different, but they are all questions that lead to questions, that lead to more questions with no definitive answers. We can’t know all that will be facing us in the coming 10, 20, or 30 years, how the cultural and economic landscape will change, or how our family and friendship circles will change. This is not a unique situation for people in our age group, but we may experience it differently than younger generations do as we are transforming our lives after 50.

All of us ultimately, then, are confronted be the question of how do we live in between now and the unknown future? Karen Sands, gerofuturist, author of The Ageless Way and several other books, addresses this in “What’s Next? Midlife Questions We All Ask”:

We have to stay in the center of time and wait it out. … find a safe middle ground. A place within where time doesn’t exist, where it’s okay to not know . . . yet. That’s where real clarity is birthed….

But while I wait, my task is to keep striving for greater consciousness, stretching to unleash my greatness and to re-awaken the visionary within…. We must create our own eye in the storm of time, a place of inner calm, where we look objectively at the possibilities around us.

Waiting, striving, stretching, re-awakening…. great concepts, but we may not be sure quite how to do that! It begins with waiting. We have had periods of waiting throughout our lives – to become an adult, to find our life partner, to start a family – and on a daily basis. Waiting in line for things is a part of our lives. One of the pitfalls of all the waiting is that we can slide into inertia during these periods. Be alert for signs that this is happening to you, as I wrote in “The Cost of Inertia.”

Instead, we can accept and make the best of waiting periods. That space can be golden – a time to explore without pressure of immediate changes or decisions. One of the things we can do as we wait is stretch our minds and horizons by exploring how others have experienced and are transforming their years over 50. We can talk with people in our circles and read the increasing number of books and articles that are available. We can reflect through journaling, discovering through that process treasures within us to lead us forward. We can make the most of the space between.

I recommend these books written by Karen Sands as you wait:
 Visionaries Have Wrinkles
 The Ageless Way

Gratitude: Beyond Lists to In-The-Moment

gratitudeFar too often in our striving to improve, to stretch, to reinvent parts of our lives, we forget to be grateful for who we are and what surrounds us. In our focus on the future, we neglect the present.

Many of the gratitude exercises and practices I have heard of and practiced are of the reflecting and listing type. For example, at the end of each day, write down 5 things for which you are grateful. In fact, I encourage such practices, as in this blog post: Gratitude as the Overriding Tone of Your Life. I recognize the value of them and also am glad to learn of another way of having a sense of gratitude infuse the day and form the foundation of all we do.

David Cain, in “Gratitude Comes From Noticing Your Life, Not From Thinking About It” provides inspiration for this practice.

Gratitude, when we do genuinely feel it, arises from experiences we are currently having, not from evaluating our lives in our heads. When you feel lonely, for example, simply remembering that you have friends is a dull, nominal comfort compared to how wonderful it feels when one of those friends calls you out of the blue. Reflecting on the good fortune of having a fixed address is nice, but stepping inside your front door after a cold and rainy walk home is sublime.


The experience, not the idea, is what matters. So if you want to feel grateful, forget the thinking exercises. Look for your good fortune not in some abstract assessment of your life situation, but in your experience right in this moment. What can you see, feel, hear, or sense, right here in the present, that’s helpful, pleasant, or beautiful?

Often our push toward change we are acting out of dissatisfaction, which can be a powerful motivator. If, however, we are at the same time acknowledging and feeling gratitude for things in our present moment, it is a much more powerful position from which to move forward. It also calms us and reduces the stress caused by dissatisfaction, thus freeing up energy for moving forward into our intended future. I am not quite ready to “forget the thinking exercises” as David suggests, but I will add this practice to my days and encourage you to try it too.

In addition to this simple and profound practice, I invite you to check out this extremely helpful book, Unlock Your Ideal Self, Transformation From Within by Dennis Becker. Gratitude is among the topics covered. This is indeed a handbook that you can refer to again and again.

The Power of Saying No

just say noI recently participated in a Vision Board Workshop in which the facilitator stressed the importance of choosing your life every day. We need to choose how we spend our time based on our priorities, not someone else’s priorities. That means saying “no” to things on which others ask us to spend our precious time so that we can indeed actualize those dreams and desires we have for our lives. There is power in saying no.

The day after the workshop, I found a helpful article written by Kevin Ashton – “The Most Successful Creative People Constantly Say ‘No’’. He noted that we are taught NOT to say no in many situations as we are growing up. We are taught to be cooperative and compliant. But we need a different perspective on our time and who controls it as we are transforming our lives after age 50. These words state it so clearly:

“Time is the raw material of creation. Wipe away the magic and myth of creating and all that remains is work: the work of becoming expert through study and practice, the work of finding solutions to problems and problems with those solutions, the work of trial and error, the work of thinking and perfecting, the work of creating. …

“Saying “no” has more creative power than ideas, insights and talent combined. ‘No’ guards time, the thread from which we weave our creations. The math of time is simple: you have less than you think and need more than you know.” (The entire article can be found here: The Most Successful Creative People Constantly Say ‘No’)

As someone who is a helper and has a long history of doing what people ask and offering to do things even when they don’t, this is a big challenge for me. I am committed to seeing the future I have on my vision board actualized. It is a work of creation. And creation takes time and focus.

Is this a challenge for you as you transform your years after 50? I encourage you to examine your typical patterns and decide what you may have to work on, as I do. It may take some time to take these actions and feel good about them; I know it will be a process for me.

If you would like to learn from one of the masters, John Assaraf, here is a great resource on using vision boards as a tool to achieve your dreams:  The Complete Vision Board Kit: Using the Power of Intention and Visualization to Achieve Your Dreams 


Photography Transforms, II

Photography TransformsAs I mentioned  in Photography Transforms, the photos taken of various aspects of the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s transformed the attitudes of people across the country.  Seeing images of the violence upon protesters and marchers awakened millions to realities that were outside their experiences and awareness. And more than increasing awareness, the photos motivated people from around the country to get involved in efforts to change these inequalities and violence.

A very specific example of this is included in a video about the 1963 Children’s Campaign in Birmingham, Alabama.  A multi-page spread of photographs by Charles Moore that was published in Life Magazine in mid-1963 is credited with exposing millions to what was happening in Birmingham. They stimulated marches across the country in support of the children of Birmingham and other activism toward change. Photography transforms indeed.

There is power in photography.  How have you been impacted by photos you have seen, or photos you have taken?  How could you use your photographic eye and talent to transform how you see things, and how others see things?

To explore more of this example of how photography transforms, check out a couple of resources using these links (my affiliate links):

Powerful Days: Civil Rights Photography of Charles Moore

The Story of the Birmingham Civil Rights Movement in Photographs

Three Gifts of Being Over 50

3 GiftsHave you seen more about the challenges of being over age 50 than you care to see? Have you heard so much about midlife crises that you figure you must have one, or if you didn’t that there is something wrong with you? I surely feel that way sometimes. That is one reason why this post about the three gifts of being over 50 by Donna Kastner is so refreshing and encouraging. Donna is the founder of Retirepreneur, a digital community for people who want to transition from full time employment to a part time business.

Three Gifts

Donna identifies three gifts that are setting the stage for our next adventures. They are “Remarkable Gift #1: The Happiness Surge”, “Remarkable Gift #1: More Moxie”, and “Remarkable Gift #3: A Deeper Sense of Purpose (Your Unique Why).

The Happiness Surge is verified by multiple studies:

Studies shows that our sense of wellbeing and contentedness tends to run highest in young adulthood – in our 20s and 30s – and later, as we move into our 60s. Researchers have also found this happiness curve rings true across different nations and cultures. While there are exceptions, it’s gratifying to finally have evidence that blows away the myth about aging triggering a downward spiral. We now know the exact opposite is the case for most, as our 60s become our most blissful stage yet.

This is great news, and an important counter-balance to the “all down hill from here” attitude that is promoted in society, beginning with the “over the hill” birthday cards for 50 year olds. Do they offend you as they do me?

More Moxie is described by Donna as “a rich word that depicts an uptick in energy, courage and emotional strength” now that we are over 50. Oh, yes! That’s what we have as a result of all of our life experiences. Sometimes it takes us a little time and space to recognize these attributes in ourselves.  Look for them in yourself and in your peers.  You can celebrate and find ways to use them together.

Deeper Sense of Purpose is, according to Donna, “particularly special (since) we’ve been honing it throughout our lives. Yet in our 60s we’re now blessed with more time and opportunity to activate this super power and start with the ‘why’.”

You may be saying that all sounds great, but I don’t see where that takes me. What’s the point? Donna has a challenge for us that can apply to any of us who are over 50, whereever we live and what our background and experiences are:

There’s much work to be done in this complicated world we live in, and I can’t think of a better group to tackle this assignment than the 60-something crowd. Armed with these three gifts – and others – we’re now poised to help make amazing things happen.

This is my hope and desire also: that we who have (in general) better health and a longer life expectancy than generations before us will use these three gifts and all we have learned and become to make a positive difference in the world in our years over 50! Are you up for it?