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How Important Is It to Make a Difference in Your 60s?

By Rosanne Ullman October 29, 2021 Lifestyle

Have you always felt that you’re destined to do something great? In our 60s, we can wake up and think: it’s now or never.

Maybe we want to leave our mark on our community or even the world. If we’re retired, we can make up for all of the volunteering we would have liked to have done if we’d only had the time.

Or we might feel compelled to explore something within our own talent set. Often this involves the arts – we’ve always wanted to write a book, try our hand at painting, act in local theater. While seemingly more self-indulgent than community service, this effort still can leave something tangible for our family and, perhaps, a wider audience as well.

Figure Out Your Purpose

I asked for thoughts on this topic from my friend Rae Luskin, a life coach, speaker and author of The Creative Activist: Make the World Better, One Person, One Action at a Time. She says she asks women at this stage of life to consider whether they’re satisfied. If not, are they called to do something more?

She has them ask themselves four questions:

  1. What would you love to experience in life in the next 3-5 years?
  2. What would you love to create?
  3. What would you love to contribute?
  4. Who do you want to become?

Reviewing your past can further help you to design your future. “I have people go through their decades of life and identify two or three things they overcame, what they learned, and who they became in the process,” Luskin says. “They discover that, at that juncture, they were courageous, or willing to take a risk, or wise.”

Identify Your Strengths

Luskin suggests asking your friends what they admire about you. Or start with a free online test at viacharacter.org that tells you where your strengths lie. Next, think about what comes naturally to you.

“A woman I know in her 70s started teaching online baking for the holidays during the pandemic, and now people ask her for recipes and to lead groups,” Luskin says. “I know a 92-year-old who’s having a book of poetry published. If you look historically, a lot of women live a second life starting in their 70s, even 80s.”

For a client at retirement age who had a love for animals and a history of health problems, Luskin suggested combining her experiences by having a pet trained as a therapy dog. The client is happily following the advice.

Another woman, in her 70s, confided to Luskin that what she really loved was making jewelry. “We got her up and running with Etsy and a website,” recalls Luskin. “She started a business, and it doesn’t matter whether it makes her a lot of money. Her jewelry brings her joy.”

Banish Negative Messages

Often, it’s not the lack of time that keeps us from acting but the negative messages we received as children and continue to tell ourselves. This might sound like: “I am not talented, smart or good enough.” Luskin says it’s time to leave all of that behind and take on an attitude that we just want to enjoy what we’re doing and maybe inspire someone along the way.

“Everyone has at least one story to share that can offer hope around what you’ve overcome,” adds Luskin, who conducts half-hour “heart-storming sessions” at her business The Winning Adventure. “Many of us diminish that. We think that no one would care what we have to say.”

More Road Blocks

Perfectionism and procrastination also can keep you from following a calling. What if I fail? How can I start today when I have to get my car fixed?

And the big one: people-pleasing. How can I do this when my mom needs help? Or just: What will people say?

Luskin cites research showing that, at the end of their lives, women regretted choosing the career and living the life others expected of them. Luskin asks clients, “What activities really got your juices going when you were younger?”

The Opposite of Joy

Rather than searching for your happiest moments, you may have to go into your darkest times to find your calling. Luskin gives two examples. The first is singer Don McLean’s former wife, photographer Patrisha McLean, who will be contributing at “Women Who Dare,” Luskin’s free online summit scheduled for November 8-14.

Patrisha McLean started the organization Finding Our Voices to fight domestic abuse after accusing her celebrity husband of domestic abuse. Along with her photographs, this initiative is now her legacy.

Luskin also mentions Sue Ellen Allan, who died early in 2021. After battling breast cancer during her seven-year incarceration for securities fraud, Allan became an advocate for women prisoners’ dignity, safety and successful reentry into society.

Take One Step

“Notice what you notice,” Luskin says. She recommends thinking about your life, your longing and your discontent in five areas: health and wellbeing; relationships; money/time/freedom; creative expression; and work (paid or unpaid).

It can be a big dream like starting a foundation, or making a difference in your own life or others’ lives can be just one small thing like volunteering at a school. For me, small scale was enough.

I recently moved south from a long-time home and was missing my friends and the easy way I could ramble on with them about new songs I was liking and how they related to music of the past. So with one of those friends I launched a Facebook group, “Music Now and Then,” that I hope will grow. (Please join!)

Starting a new group like that is hardly earth-shattering. But I’m finding that when something whispers in your ear long enough, it’s rewarding to heed the call.

How are you making a difference in your community? Who inspires you to keep giving? Does this fulfill you? In what ways?

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The Author

Rosanne Ullman has a long freelance writing career. She is the author of the children's picture book The Case of the Disappearing Kisses, an admin for the Facebook group "Grammar Matters," and the creator and instructor of the Write My Memoirs Grammar and Writing Course.

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