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Do Not Fear the Autumn of Your Life

By Becki Cohn-Vargas October 16, 2023 Mindset

What do you like about autumn? I have recently realized that autumn is one of the best seasons of the year. The weather is still warm… even as the cold begins to creep in.

The leaves change color. Near my house there are spectacular walnut trees that turn glorious colors of red, and yellow and gold. But, I am not here to talk about the trees… I am here to talk about our lives after 60, and 70 – and beyond.

Our society does not value the special qualities of age, except when it comes to a good wine. But I have come to feel that this is one of the best times in my life. And if there is one thing I have learned in 68 years on the planet, it is to appreciate what you have each moment.

So, what can make this moment so special? I want to highlight three aspects:

  1. Wisdom acquired: we have learned a few things along the way.
  2. We get to choose: because we have paid our dues.
  3. The energy we have we can use for a life of purpose and there is so much to be done.

Celebrate Your Acquired Wisdom

Believe it or not, when a person has been around for 60 plus years, most of us have gained some wisdom. If not from what we have done right, clearly from what we have done wrong!

I had a broken heart when a long-term relationship ended in my 20s, only to have a marriage that has now gone beyond 40 years.

For three decades, my career in education kept moving up, but I suddenly hit a wall when I took on being superintendent of a dysfunctional district I could not fix. Yet, that led to today where I am engaged at a national level, totally focused on my passion for equity and social justice. By now, I know that I can bounce back.

Embracing Your Right to Live Your Way

I believe that we have the right to decide how to spend our time, because we have paid our dues. For me, that included 30 years in public education systems working for educational equity against daunting odds with new overwhelming problems every day.

I loved every minute, well almost every minute, but I certainly feel after working in the trenches I can write and speak about education and life. Now, in the autumn of life, I want to be a “thought leader” on these subjects.

Finding Meaning in Your Life After 60

Consider all of the wonderful opportunities we have right now for a meaningful life. Stanford University has a project called Pathways to Purpose in the Encore Years to explore the power of a purposeful life.

Purpose incorporates far-reaching goals for the greater good where one can make progress even with unattainable outcomes (Barber, Mueller, Ogata, 2013). Researchers have found that when a person seeks a path in life with a commitment to something greater than oneself, a meaningful life ensues that leads to wellbeing.

That concept of purpose is perfect for people in our 60s. We no longer believe that if we stay up all night working or maybe even if we work a few hours longer we can save the world. Rather, our sense of purpose is to continue the “good fight” along with many others over time to make the world better.

For me, that includes public speaking and writing. I have led a bullying prevention workshop for 300 teens in Michigan and led an environmental education trip for 16 college students to the Nicaraguan rain forest.

My sister leads the AIDS/LifeCycle Ride, a yearly 380-mile bike trip with hours of training sessions and my other sister is a team leader for the Step Out for Diabetes walk.

This is a time to take the energy we still have and put our “passion where our mouth is.” Purpose also includes the time and love we devote to our families. Spending time with grown children and grandchildren fills our lives with meaning.

The Road Is Not Endless

In the autumn of our lives, in our 60s and beyond, we realize that the road is not endless. We may have watched others slow down and have seen more than one close friend’s life turn on a dime. We have choices. Do we buy into the societal images of getting old? Or do we squeeze every drop of juice out of life while we can? So, I say, when you hit your autumn: Do not underestimate your wisdom.

Know that you have paid many dues. Now it is your time to choose what you want to do and how you want to live.

And, finally, go for it with all gusto!

Let’s Have a Conversation:

What passions and new experiences are you embracing in your 60s? Do you agree that life after 60 is an opportunity to do what you have always wanted to? Please join the conversation.

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It’s interesting that while the article focuses more on finding purpose, most of the comments so far are about getting toxic or draining people out of your life. I completely endorse that. I won’t tolerate people who drain me, or male “friends” who lack empathy or respect for women. It’s depressing to realize how common that is among men. I suppose I’ve been lucky to know good men, so they’ve set the bar high – I won’t tolerate any less, even in a platonic relationship.


I’m 68, widowed. Remarried to the most positive man ever. We moved to a small town, and are active with our seniors centre. I have chosen to be with people who are positive
Those that are toxic I no longer have contact with. I am a better person because of my decision…life is really good.


I am embracing “the autumn of my life” and after retiring from owning a business I started working at a winery in the tasting room. Wine and food has always been my passion so I am enjoying this new leaf so much. I have found that it is some young people I am having trouble with – especially women. This so bothers me because I am such a champion of all women and strive to boost and encourage a woman, young or vintage, whenever I can.
I am trying to navigate their subtle put downs and critiques and find myself kowtowing to them – and don’t know quite what to do or how to handle them.
Anyway, I do love this new chapter – challenging at times however a little challenge is good for me


A very wise elderly man told me just before he passed that one of the most important things in life is to “be prudent in how you spend your time, but most importantly, who you spend your time with.” Those words echo back to me all the time.


I just realized I’m my 60’s that I shouldn’t have to put up with people causing havoc where none I’d needed and tell them either stop or just dont be in my life.


When I had cancer in my 40s I decided to take a step back from everyone in my life who was either clingy or toxic as I didn’t want to be listening to their problems, given I had my own to face. It felt great to free myself and I felt justified in doing it.

The Author

Becki Cohn-Vargas, Ed.D, has been blogging regularly for Sixty and Me since 2015. She is a retired educator and independent consultant. She's the co-author of three books on identity safe schools where students of all backgrounds flourish. Becki and her husband live in the San Francisco Bay Area and have three adult children and one grandchild. You can connect with her at the links below.

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