Lessons Learned: Age, Aging and Ageism

Barbara Penn-Atkins is a Retirement Transition and Re-Career Coach, Speaker and Author.

Barbara Penn-Atkins is a Retirement Transition and Re-Career Coach, Speaker and Author.


By: Barbara Penn-Atkns







Yep, you guessed it … age 39 and holding!!!

 Age 39 introduced me to a new paradigm shift highlighting the relevance of aging and the maturation process in every phase of life and confirmed that aging was a prerequisite to life’s journey to longevity. Having had conversations with my Mom, other seniors and elders, I found their wisdom enlightened my knowledge of the beauty that lies within the time and space of aging. I learned that age is a number based on calendar years that begins birth and repeated annually throughout life. It is the biological clock that ticks continuously and confounds time until the end of eternity which reaches life’s worthy destination.

As part of my aging journey, I visualized this image – a bridge built and walked on at the same time, extending between two huge mountains and over gaps, gorges and turbulent waters (This is my metaphor to say ‘walk the talk’). The bridge is supported by strong pillars representing character, values, spiritual strength and integrity. All of these are intimately and gloriously integrated in a solid foundation governed by the mind, body, spirit, lifestyle and life-choices. These were my mentor’s guideposts for successful aging.

During the decade of my 40s, 50s and 60s, I found the maturation process to be well established consisting of knowledge, skills, experience, creativity and challenges.  I discovered beneath my imaginary bridge a fearless and strong-willed African-American woman. I was prepared to exercise my spiritual strength and tenacity to take risks and go into business for myself. Among the many life choices that lay ahead of me was the one of entrepreneurship: That was my dream! – I had always wanted to become a woman owned business destined to help make a difference in the lives of other women –particularly those who fell within that socio-economic status where help and a helping hand was critically needed.

At the height of the recession in 1980, I chose to start a business. It was a time during our nation’s economic downturn that had forced many women in the clerical workforce into layoffs and unemployment. I saw this period as a prime opportunity to ‘find a need and fill it’ and, at the same time challenge the status quo by starting a business in a male dominated industry at the onset of new emerging technology. It called for every strength, purpose and passions existing within the fabric of my being. With $1500 borrowed on my life insurance, I wrote a business plan – a plan driven by a strong vision and mission statement that captured sophisticated systems and procedures and formed a company that within five years had grown to a $2.5 million dollar enterprise. This business was supported by a full-time staff of 185 employees in three locations providing word-processing (typing) and data-entry/data conversation services to Fortune 500 companies, State, local and Federal government agencies.

During the 15+ years of growth and success we experienced numerous challenges and oppositions that included the loss of an $11 million dollar contract which eventually led to a bankruptcy. Also during this period I experienced personal losses – the a loss of my husband, my one and only daughter who endured 26 years of multiple sclerosis and my best friend – my Mom. All within the span of 18 months.

I entered retirement and after one year of idle time and stuck on life’s treadmill going nowhere, I recalled my commitment and passion to help others. No more time for hopeless pessimism. It was time to re-create, re-charge and grow to another level. I opted for an Encore Career and formed a new business designed to help pre-retirees, boomers and beyond navigate their transition from work career into a life that has purpose, passion, fulfillment and satisfaction.

Now that I’ve arrive at this new age of maturity and healthy living, the most valued point is for continuous social engagement as retirement is the beginning of a new season in life. It’s time to fulfill dreams and passions, manage time and pleasures, and bridge any gaps between financial plans and a plan for living the life you richly deserves. This does not negate the fact that there are challenges to overcome and myths to fight of ageism and stereotyping that anyone over age 50 knows too well.

This age, this aging and this ageism philosophy prompted me to re-invent and re-purpose my knowledge, skills and experience, bringing me to the conclusion that once you have a purpose-driven life and a passion within your authentic self, you must continue to fulfill your destiny. At the age of 75, I wrote my first book entitled 70 is the New 40 – Bonus Years Here We Come.

If you are within 5-10 years of retirement or if you are already retired, I challenge you to look within and rediscover your dreams deferred and passion. Midlife is a season of new beginnings and you’ve only just begun to live. Apply these rules of life management for a rich life-long journey into aging gracefully.

Unleash the power in your aging and prepare for life’s change, discover what matters most and do what you love. Health, wealth and social engagement are your prime pillars for successful aging.

Rule I – Health

  1. Be proactive for healthy living. Include daily a diet of nuts, fruits, vegetables, chicken and fish.
  2. Find a hobby to enjoy
  3. Keep your body in motion with exercise, leisure and music.
  4. Meditate and pray regularly for spiritual growth and mental acuity.
  5. Stay connected with family, old friends and make new friends often.

Rule II – Wealth

  1. Bridge any gaps between your financial plan and your personal life plan.
  2. Write your personal life plan – include your dreams, passion and purpose.
  3. Re-purpose your knowledge, skills and experience.
  4. Embark upon an Encore Career

Rule III – Social Engagement

  1. Learn and use technology to connect and maximize relationships.
  2. Engage in community and church activities, volunteer and mentor youth.
  3. Be proactive –let your voice be heard in the political process and be pro-active for an age-friendly community.
  4. Find a need and fill it – Volunteer, opt to become a change agent and make a difference for others.

Align these tips with your heart and mind, then engage your spiritual guidance to manifest and help you onto a new journey of a road less travelled in your bonus years ahead.

www.sunrisebeginnings.com   l   www.Twitter.com/BarbAtkins   lwww.Facebook.com/70isthenew40

l     Email: pennagroup@gmail.com l   www.LinkedIn.com/BarbaraAtkins


  1. Thanks Pamela.

    Please follow me on LinkedIn.

  2. Your colorful story evokes a number of images that I’d like to see illustrated — particularly the bridge scene. Clearly, courage is one of your great strengths that continues to support your transitions as you continue your meaningful work into your next decade.

  3. Wonderful article Barbara. Once again, you bring to life the words we all need to hear. Funny, I spoke to a group not too long ago at a financial planners office and used the term ‘encore career’ and you would have thought I invented the moon. Good heavens. (Ha, no pun intended!)
    Love that we are on similar paths Barbara and that we have been doing this for so long and love what we do.

  4. Love the work you’re doing! I’m working on an Encore career myself and look forward to reading your book and getting more tips. Thanks for bringing this work to the world.

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