At age 58, Jerry Leener retired from his job as an accounting-firm partner to try something new. After spending years devoted to complicated spreadsheets, he had simple goals: to give back, lose his structured schedule, work with people, and ditch his coat and tie. An encounter with an emergency medical services battalion chief led him to try his hand as an emergency medical technician.
An innovative, highly personalized new AARP approach — Life Reimagined — is designed to help people learn how to tackle this new life stage. A multimedia set of tools, resources and programs, available both online and in person, supports anyone interested in exploring life choices large or small.
Mastering EMT skills wasn't easy; Leener almost gave up twice during 18 months of grueling training. But he hung in. And now, at 65, he spends 30 hours a week on an EMT team in Silver Spring, Maryland. The volunteer work fulfills him "body, mind and soul," he says.
What's your Life Reimagined?
Not everyone can make the dramatic life change that Leener did, but plenty of older adults are searching for new ways to find fulfillment. "People today are living longer and staying healthier than any generation before," says AARP Executive Vice President Emilio Pardo. "The gift of extra years in adulthood means people have more time for personal growth."
The entry point to Life Reimagined is an online assessment tool, at LifeReimagined.org, that lets you establish where you are in your journey to achieve your goals and dreams. Additional applike activities lead you through the six steps of positive change: Reflect, Connect, Explore, Choose, Repack and Act.
Key to the process of transformation is pulling together a sounding board of friends, family members or other mentors who can help with your life transition. Sometimes a major event prompts a desire for change, and learning from others lets you make the most of the situation, says Pardo. Whether that event, or "trigger moment," is positive (like buying a new house) or negative (such as facing a health scare), it presents an opportunity to reevaluate your life.
To encourage ideas, Life Reimagined explores themes like purpose, passion and the power of experience. And Emmy Award–winning television journalist Jane Pauley highlights inspiring stories of people who have successfully revitalized their lives — she documented Leener's journey — in a monthly series called Life Reimagined Today on NBC'sToday show. (You can find the air times at LifeReimagined.org.)
Experts at the Life Reimagined Institute for Innovation, who created this approach to transformation, champion personal development. "It is possible — in fact, it's necessary — for people to continue to change and evolve, no matter how old they are," says institute fellow Bill Thomas, M.D. "Life Reimagined encourages growth throughout life. It's for anyone who has the spark of curiosity inside of them."