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Reimagining Your Possibilities as You Get Older

According to experts, we have more influence over how we age than we think.

Key points

  • Research suggests the importance of letting go of negative stereotypes as you reimagine what’s next in this season of your life.
  • Our choices can greatly impact our ability to respond to life’s opportunities and challenges.
  • Life’s second half can be a great time to try new things and explore life’s possibilities.

Recent findings show that we have greater influence on our lives as we get older than once thought (Staudinger, 2020; Diehl, 2020). This research opens opportunities to let go of self-imposed and societally imposed limitations as we reimagine what’s next in this season of our lives.

What are the facts amid all the stereotypes about getting older? How can the second half of life be lived in a more expansive way that affirms what is meaningful? Can we transform our ideas about the second half of life to take a road less traveled—a path that empowers us to invigorate our well-being in ways we might not have imagined?

Dr. Viktor Frankl, renowned psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, taught that between what happens and how we respond, we have the freedom to choose our attitude. Frankl’s life experiences, including surviving imprisonment in a Nazi death camp, taught him that with choice comes the possibility to search for meaning.

 Cristian Bowen/Unsplash
Source: Cristian Bowen/Unsplash

Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life

Where and how can you find meaning in the second half of life? One way is to be open to new experiences (Staudinger 2020). This may involve flexibility and the motivation to engage in new and varied activities, such as adventures in learning, personal development, relationships, physical exercise, and work tasks. Making these kinds of choices can enhance your ability to respond to life’s challenges and stave off declines as you get older (Staudinger, 2020; Luchetti et al., 2016)

Are you aware of your preconceived ideas about the changing seasons of life? Holding negative stereotypes about old age can reduce your openness to new experiences (Levy, 2009). With knowledge can come power, as you recognize the limiting ideas you have been carrying. You can choose to let go of stereotypes and inaccuracies as you reimagine possibilities for what’s next.

How can you build a bridge of connection between life as you’ve known it and your next steps? If you’re at or nearing retirement, how can you transition between a pre-retirement identity and a retired identity?

Transitioning to a new life stage can be a time to rewire parts of your life as you think about yourself and your roles in the world. According to experts, it can be helpful to reimagine how you might use skills from the workplace in new ways, leaning into relationships, learning new competencies, and creating space for activities you may have thought about or wanted to try, but not yet gotten to. It can be helpful to scope out what’s ahead, not only considering finances and health but also anticipating what your daily schedule might look like and creating a reinvigorated identity and greater meaning as you build new life structures (Amabile, 2019).

Expanding your creativity in this season of your life can be another piece of the rewiring puzzle. Creativity can develop from a tension, need, or internal conflict and yearning to be satisfied, and a path involving openness, curiosity, perseverance, and investment of attention (Csikszentmihalyi, 1996).

The second half of life offers a rich environment to respond creatively as you try new things, discover old interests, interact with your communities, and explore life’s wellspring of choices. For example, Nobel Laureate Linus Pauling, Ph.D., reportedly published more scientific papers between ages 70 and 90 than earlier in his life. Benjamin Franklin invented bifocal lenses at age 78, and, in his 80s, Robert Frost presented his poem at the inauguration of John F. Kennedy. Renowned naturalist Jane Goodall, well into her 80s, has become an influential global ambassador for protecting the environment.

Questions to Consider

Whatever season of life you are currently in, here are a few questions to consider:

  • What do you know from the deepest part of yourself?
  • What have you always wanted to get to, but have not yet explored?
  • How do you want to create a bridge from life as you’ve known it toward your next steps?
  • What’s your next right step?

This post is for educational purposes and should not substitute for psychotherapy with a qualified professional.

©2022 Ilene Berns-Zare, LLC, All Rights Reserved


Amabile, T.M. (2019). Understanding retirement requires getting inside people’s stories: A call for more qualitative research. Aging and Retirement 5(3), 207-211.

Arnett, J.J., Robinson, O. & Lachman, M.E. (2020). Rethinking adult development: Introduction to the special issue. American Psychologist, 75(3), 425-430.

Csikszentmihali, M. (1996). Creativity: Flow and the psychology of discovery and invention. New York, NY: Harper & Row.

Diehl, M., Smyer, MA. & Mehrotra, C.M. (2020). Optimizing aging: A call for a new narrative. American Psychologist, 75(4), 577-589.

Levy B. (2009). Stereotype Embodiment: A psychosocial approach to aging. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 18(6), 332–336.

Luchetti, M., Terracciano, A., Stephan, Y. & Sutin, A.R. (2016). Personality and cognitive decline in older adults: Data from a longitudinal sample and meta-analysis, The Journals of Gerontology: Series B, 71(3), 591–601.

Staudinger, U.M. (2020). The positive plasticity of adult development: Potential for the 21st century. American Psychologist, 75(4), 540-553.

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