What does it mean to live your best life after 50?
That's the question we asked of readers a few months ago — and a resounding 6,000 of you responded, with amazing stories of courage in the face of adversity, of finding new purpose and of rediscovering love in the second half of life.
We chose seven of you — including a People's Choice winner, selected by readers — to fly to New York for a whirlwind two-day photo shoot. Take a peek by watching the video below, and reading about the winners and playing their videos on the following pages.
Next page: A lovely late bloomer. »
Kim Dillard, 51
Lifeline: My family
Words to Live by: There's only one path to now.
Let's just say I was a late bloomer.
I lived in Dallas, Houston and New York in my 20s and 30s, and while all my friends were getting married and having kids, I still wanted to be a kid. I waited until 39 to get married, and 40 to have a daughter. Then I was a single mom, which is where adulthood really started.
See also: AARP's Black Community page
And then I waited until I was almost 50 to pursue my dream. Or more specifically (and literally), my sister's dream: She called me in the middle of the night and said, "I dreamt that we should start a faith-based television network for the urban community." And so we did!
We took our savings — she was a teacher, and I was a loan officer — and started a network. We knew nothing about television. We had to teach ourselves how to operate a television camera. But I believe it's good not to know too much, because if you know a lot about something, you may be afraid to try it. And, really, this idea is one of the main components of faith. I walk in a faith adventure every day.
TheRejoiceNetwork.com streams 24 hours of programming for an urban audience daily — you might see a holy hip-hop rap artist, or you might see classic black movies from the '40s and '50s starring Lena Horne. Through my network I am trying to pass on that example of faith and fearlessness to my daughter and to other young people, especially young people of color. One day, in the near future, a fit, healthy, active female entrepreneur in her 50s and beyond will be the rule in urban communities, not the exception.
Whatever I do at this stage of my life, I ask myself (and my friends) this question: Am I having fun? Am I making a difference? As I move forward, I hope to be able to answer both questions with a very loud "Yes."
Next page: A fabulous firefighter. »
Richard Bucci, 54
Home: Graham, N.C.
Lifeline: My wife, Stacy
Words to Live by: It's not the number of things we acquire, but how many lives we touch along the way.
For 28 years I've had just about the best job any man could have — firefighting. I've worked in Florida, North Carolina and, earlier, with our extraordinary military in Iraq.
I wrote about my experience in 2004 with the Mosul bombing in Iraq (80 percent of the proceeds from the book go to support our soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder). I've faced extreme conditions. I've witnessed heroism at close range.
I've seen birth — I helped deliver a baby — and I've seen death. And as I approached 50, I had to think about my own: I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. My doctor told me that if it hadn't been caught early, I would have been looking at a terminal case 10 years later.
I think everyone expected me to retire from firefighting at that point, particularly since, right after the prostate surgery, I faced surgery for a separated shoulder (from fighting a structure fire) and a total hip replacement. Instead, I decided to get back into firefighting condition, which involved seven months of physical therapy and training, at least two hours a day, four days a week.
Today, at 54, I'm still doing the job I love most — the other guys call me Grandpa. And at the end of the day, I return to the love of my life, Stacy. We met after the prostate surgery, and after my 50th birthday. We'd both been married twice before; the theme for our wedding was "Three time's the charm."
When you've seen as much death and suffering as I have, just the fact of being here, when so many others you've known and loved are not, gives every day new meaning.
There's not one day that goes by that I don't hug my wife and give her a kiss and tell her I love her. Not one day. My son Kyle, who's 21, too. I've been blessed to be of service, and I know I'm still here because God has a plan for me. He has one for all of us.
Next page: A poised painter. »