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Live an Extraordinary Life

By Pam Lamp December 20, 2023 Lifestyle

Thirteen years ago – when she was 65 years old – Barbara Pagano stumbled on a longevity website. She plugged in her basic health information, along with her family’s diseases and history, and pressed submit. What popped up on the screen was her proposed life expectancy. And that number was 98.6.

Whether or not that number holds true, seeing it on her screen was a game-changer for Barbara. She realized, “Wow. This really can be me. I may have 30 more years.”

Fortunately, Barbara had her health, good genes, her husband and daughter, and a fulfilling career as a successful author, keynote speaker, and corporate coach.

What to Do with Her Remaining Time?

She was content. But the magic question rolling around in the back of her mind – a question for all of us – was What do I want to do with the years I have left? “Yes, I’m happy,” thought Barbara. “But can I be happier?”

Her latest book, The 60-Something Crisis – How to Live an Extraordinary Life in Retirement offers a powerful message for the last third of our lives.

With research gathered from interviews with more than 200 retirees and individuals preparing to leave the workforce, Barbara guides readers on how to invest in themselves and live a satisfying life in their later years.

Barbara’s goal, despite the inevitable challenges, is for “people to fall in love with life after 65 and all it can offer to each of us.”

While researching the book, Barbara discovered that “a big regret many have is they get to the end of life and wish they had lived truer to themselves.” Many wish they had devoted more time and energy to what they wanted to do, rather than what they should do. “I am determined not to review my life with regrets,” says Barbara.

So… between that 98.6 flashing on the computer screen and the regret research she uncovered, Barbara made a decision. She would invest in herself and figure out what she wanted to do with her remaining time.

What Are Your Dream?

Barbara scoffed at the question What are your dreams? That concept seemed too large for her. “The idea of dreams didn’t move me,” she says. But what did move Barbara was the word aspiration.

According to Barbara, aspirations are possibilities. Oh, she might dream of packing up and moving to Paris for a year. But, for a variety of constraints, a French sabbatical is not doable for Barbara. Setting aspirations forces us to narrow our focus to what is possible, what we can do.

She advises that we look at each year ahead of us and, like a mental spreadsheet, decide how to fill our boxes. One individual may want to read 60 books during the following year. A couple may wish to take their grandchildren to Disneyland. Another woman may like to try her hand at knitting, writing, or painting. Cook Italian dishes, learn a bit of Italian, travel to Italy. Meet someone new and have 30 more years with that friend. Invest in a business and run it for 20 more years.

Barbara’s Aspirations

When she sets aspirations, continuing to work – about four hours a day – is a no-brainer for Barbara. “Writing books and articles and speaking to groups make me happy,” she says. She also enjoys the income.

“I had wonderful experiences with two grandmothers. And I want to be a crackerjack grandparent,” says Barbara. “I want to take my grandchildren places and buy them things. And that costs money.”

Tap dancing and bike riding were other activities she wished to pursue – other aspirations.

After pondering aspirations, it is time to make choices and carry the idea forward. How do I make bike riding or tap dancing or Italian cooking or a Disneyland trip happen? “When the idea moves from aspiration to intention, we are FULL ON,” says Barbara.

In Barbara’s case, she visited bike shops, bought a bike, mapped out riding trails, and researched other women and groups who welcomed a new rider. She signed up for tap dancing lessons. She smiled sweetly at the store clerk who couldn’t believe Barbara needed tap shoes for herself.

She dove into both pursuits with “everything she had.”

She Is Learning

In her dance class, Barbara is the oldest. She watches the new steps, videos the instructor doing them, and practices diligently at home. “High desire will trump your skill level,” she laughs.

“As we get older, we must be very protective of our self-confidence,” says Barbara.

Plenty of folks think she’s crazy to hop on a bike and zip down the Natchez Trace trail. What if something happens? She hears it again and again.

“But I am capable, and I want to try,” says Barbara.

Barbara believes many people accept a comfortable life. And that is their choice. But, through her book, she hopes readers realize they can change how they live at any time – at age 50, 60, 70, 80, or beyond.

At her recent tap dance performance, five women – all over 50 – strode onstage. The audience applauded as the smiling women, in sparkly tops, denim jackets, and dance tights, shuffled and tapped to the music. “It’s not easy for me,” says Barbara, “but I practice hard and can hang with the others.”

And her grandkids are proud of their working, tap-dancing, bike-riding Gigi. How wonderful is that? “Part of my job is to set examples for my daughter and my grandchildren. Not that they will do it like I am. But I want them to see that our later years can be a good – better than a good – an extraordinary time in life!”

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Do you have aspirations for the next year? How will you set intentions to move those aspirations forward? Any regrets about what you haven’t done yet?

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Susan Snyder

I made the decision to be involved in the lives of my grandsons. So 4 years ago I sold my shop and home and moved 200 miles to live with my daughter and her family. Covid posed some unexpected challenges. But I drive the boys to school every morning. The younger one gardens with me. As the boys get older (and need less attention) I plan to volunteer at the library to be built in the neighborhood. And more dreams as they come to me.

Renee Lovitz

If health doesn’t stop you, don’t let age be a barrier to your dreams!!

Holly Schmitz

I’m 76 and still very active. Three months ago my girlfriend (70 years old) bought herself an electric foilboard. She had been an avid rock climber in Colorado, injured her shoulder learning to skateboard, had 2 surgeries to repair it but no success. When she saw someone Efoiling she realized it was something she could do — little shoulder used!! She was kind enough to share it with me. We alternated using the efoiboard and my stand-up paddleboard. Next she bought another Efoilboard for “friends and family”. I loved it but struggled standing up on it. I have had 7 knee surgeries, 2 ACL reconstructions, and a total knee replacement. Next I bought a Efoilboard!!! Unfortunately my range of motion isn’t so good with these knees and stiffness in hips and back. I had been an avid windsurfer — so addicted to it that my then husband and I retired in our late fifties and moved from Rhode Island to WA state. We bought a house and settled in the area that is a windsurfer’s dream. Unfortunately our first winter there was so depressing — with most days rainy, cold and so gray. The next winter we went to southern Baja MX for a month because many windsurfers were spending their winters there. Of course we fell in love with the area and the great windsurfing, so we impulsively bought a house there. We spent ten years spending 5 months in Baja and the remaining 7 in “The Gorge” in Washington. We were living the life!!!!!!

Seven years ago we rescued my then nine-year-old grandson from group homes. At age 6 he had been taken from my daughter who lived in AZ and a meth addict. Unfortunately, because biological parents are given 2 years to make positive changes (which she didn’t), we had to wait 2 years before applying for adoption. the process took 5 months of intensive scrutiny of our lives. Finally we adopted him when he was 9 years old. We wanted to continue our wonderful life but grandson couldn’t go to school in Baja because no English spoken in the small Mexican school.. Plan B was sell both houses and move to CA central coast. We ended up in a wonderful town and are near the ocean. But no windsurfing.

A year after moving here my husband became a woman and we divorced! He has a home nearby and we are now close “girlfriends”. Mostly I’ve been the primary caregiver of our son who is now almost 16. He is quite a handful, has become defiant. deceitful, and makes me very frustrated. He wants almost nothing to do with me unless he “needs” something from me. All of these transitions have caused me to suffer more and more with depression. Last summer I was hospitalized for it. I am now fighting it again and realize I must take care of myself. There’s only a short number of years to continue being active, look for Mr. Rightnow and become my old happy self again! My X and girlfriend urged me to ask my son and his wife to raise my grandson. I was so surprised they said yes! They have two sons, ages 12 and 16. Their oldest is only7 weeks older than my”adopted son/grandson” and they’re good friends. He is an A student, highly responsible, and such a pleasure. We’re all hoping that he will be a good example for my “son/grandson”. Hopefully having a strong, highly successful father and mother as well as a very well-behaved younger brother will change his attitude. I realized I needed to save myself!

Three more days until we drive 4 hours to my grandson’s new life — and mine! I’ve been dating for nearly 4 years. Oh such a roller coaster! Maybe men will find me more desireable without a teenager to raise. I’ll be able to go on trips, etc. I’ll probably be much relieved and happier. Be shocked if I’m not! That’s my Christmas present and I can’t wait!!!!!!!

Linda Blum

Thank you for your story. You obviously have a basic sense of adventure despite the knocks. At 68 I’m just setting out on retirement and very unsure about how to approach this. You actually inspired me. I hope you are able to live a freer life in the coming years. Good on you too for taking on your grandson. Even if he doesn’t show it now you will have immensely contributed to his life.
Warmest wishes


As a caregiver, my priorities may have shifted, but that doesn’t mean I’ve given up on my dreams. Here are my aspirations for the year ahead:

  • After my eye surgery, I’m hitting the trails for some much-needed hikes. I have a long list of places to go. Already booked a place near Mt Rainier.
  • As much time on the Oregon coast as possible. Hike and walk the beach. Booked time in Cannon Beach.
  • Road trips in WA, OR and BC.
  • Creative exploration through art classes. I take them online, there is such a variety.
  • Read the Bible in One Year and attend Alpha courses
  • Keep my brain working by learning something new. I love the podcasts of Andrew Huberman.

While my caregiving responsibilities may limit my freedom, I’m grateful for the memories of our past travels. Before his pancreatic cancer diagnosis we traveled the world! More thankfulness and gratitude than regrets.

Pam Lamp

Wow, Deb you are an inspiration! What a list you have for the year ahead! I am not familiar with the Andrew Huberman podcasts – will check them out. You have an amazing attitude also, and I wish you the best.

Mary-Scott Rhoads

I aspire to live near the Atlantic Ocean and walk on the beach as often as I can.

The Author

Pamela Lamp is the author of Do the Next New Thing. At Who I Met Today, a blog and podcast, she interviews people from all walks of life. Through conversations about health, hobbies, books, food, and travel, she invites you to join her, explore uncharted territory, and expand your horizons.

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