A: The one common thread that I found with all the people that I interviewed was, they made a dedicated commitment of a year-plus to reach deep down into themselves and mine their lives. Doing that work is really important. Then you have to try something new and different, and that sometimes takes us on a path, which will then lead us to another path. I always say, “Go back to your younger self. What was it that excited you but you put on the shelf because life took over? Go back and reclaim that.” It might have been music or photography. And so many people say, “I wanted always to be a writer.” Well, create a schedule and start the process. We have an opportunity in this new 50-plus world for a second chance at things. Follow your own North Star. And live the life of the person you want to be.
Q: You say to celebrate your age and own it as a badge of honor.
A: I hate the expression “Seventy is the new 50.” That’s an ageist thought. Become what the new 70 is about. And celebrate the role models we have who are 70, people like Sting, who you look at and say “Wow!” Or become what the new 80 is about, like Jane Fonda. She’s 83. I mention a fellow in the book who was the first 100-year-old man to cross the finish line in a marathon. Obviously, not everyone can run a marathon at 100, but those are the inspirational goals to show us that this is what the new 80 or the new 90 and beyond looks like.
Q: Some people find their worlds shrink as they age, especially if they’ve left the workforce. How can we guard against that?
A: I think a lot of it is taking things that you think we’re supposed to do and turning them on their heads. Well, how do you do that? One thing is that you have to get outside of your own social group. We all tend to congregate in our tribes, the same people that we’ve known forever or that are our same age. That’s not good. We need to get perspectives from 20-year-olds and 30-year-olds and 40-year-olds. Building a social network that incorporates people of all ages helps keep one engaged and active.
Q: What do you see as the future alternatives to retirement villages or nursing homes?
A: I’m hoping that we will redefine what we call today senior living or assisted living in a way that has all of us moving forward. Over the next decade you’re going to see a dramatic change in how people cohabitate and live in place. More people will choose to be in their home, supported by their friends, or with the aid of technology and medical assistance. It’s just a question of how the models will develop. And instead of downsizing, why not upsize if you have the means and resources? Why retrench when you can expand? Instead of leaving your home state to go to a so-called retiree state, stay in place and build a rich life where you are.
Q: You also believe in the die-broke philosophy.
A: Over the next 20 years, the boomers are going to pass on more than 61 trillion dollars of assets. That will be the largest transfer of generational wealth in the history of the world. Open up your life and put those resources to work now in ways that keep your life engaged and involved, as opposed to just keeping them for your children’s inheritance. There are so many things that you can do. Put that money into the nonprofit sector to make a social impact, or start a new business, or create scholarships for underserved communities. And have these experiences with your family now. We just did a family trip to Ireland. That’s a gift that has a lot more meaning than squirreling the money away for some inheritance.
Alanna Nash is a contributing writer who covers celebrity and entertainment. She has written 10 books, including several on Elvis Presley and Dolly Parton. She received a Country Music Association Media Achievement Award and a Charlie Lamb Award for Excellence in Country Music Journalism.