Bruce Frankel

Author of the new book "What Should I Do with the Rest of My Life? True Stories of Finding Success, Passion, and New Meaning in the Second Half of Life."

Excerpts

Introduction: What Should I Do With The Rest Of My Life?

I am now in the final year of my sixth decade. If I were a generation older, I would be anticipating the finish line of my working life and the greeting Happy 60th! would loom above it like an anvil waiting to drop on my surviving dreams and aspirations of youth. It was not long ago, after all, that novelist William Styron, in the grips of a depression that began on that same birthday, called sixty “that hulking milestone of mortality.” Gratefully, the prospect of turning sixty has improved significantly. . . .

Margie Stoll

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Margie’s life as a competitive runner began one spring day in 2001 after a game of tennis. She noticed a sign-up sheet for the district trials of the National Senior Games. She was close enough to her sixtieth birthday to compete in the 60–64 age group. “… I just signed up for all the track events: the one-hundred meter, the two hundred, four hundred, eight hundred and fifteen hundred. They were all on one morning, one after the other. I didn’t know any better. I just knew that I was turning sixty and I wanted to prove that I could still do something,” she said.

Harry Bernstein

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“These have been the most productive years of my life,” said Harry. He emigrated to the United States with his family after World War I, showed early promise as a writer, but weathered a lifetime of literary rejection. It was only after the death of his wife Ruby, in 2002, that he began writing his acclaimed 2007 memoir, The Invisible Wall. He has since published two more books and, at 99, is at work on a fourth book.

Betty Reid Soskin

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She showered and slipped into a pair of new long johns. In the cold, the fine-boned, five-foot-five-inch woman would need them. She pulled on her forest-green trousers and a black cashmere turtleneck sweater, over which she put on her government-issued gray long-sleeve shirt. She affixed the gold name bar on her right breast pocket. Proudly, she pinned a gold badge over her heart. She regretted not having remembered the flag pin for her lapel. “It was optional, except for this day, when I would have given anything to have it,” she said.

Dana Dakin

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WomensTrust founder Dana Dakin (left) with Pokuase Program Director Gertrude Ankrah. “I became determined to greet the youth of old age by giving back,” Dana said of her decision to celebrate her sixtieth birthday by venturing, somewhat blindly, to Africa and founding WomensTrust, a private, non-profit organization, in 2003 . . . . which has (since) earned praise as a new model of economic development.

Alidra Solday

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Solday, born Linda Brown, took a new name and quit her life as a psychotherapist in New York City. She soon began a formidable eight-year journey to make a documentary about Doris Haddock who, at ninety, walked across the continental United States to draw attention to the need for campaign finance reform. Solday used her retirement savings to make the award-winning documentary, which aired on PBS in forty-four states.

Robert Iadeluca

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“I know who I am. I know why I am. And when you get right down to it, that’s what I try to teach my patients about themselves,” said Iadeluca, who entered a doctoral program at age 52 after being laid off as a New York State civil servant during a budget crisis in 1972. He was penniless when he received his Ph. D. in lifespan development from Syracuse University seven years later.

Thomas Dwyer

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He extends lanky, marionette-like arms and moves his 127-pound frame on flamingo-thin legs. And it comes as something of a shock when he breaks from a pose of finger-to-lip concentration or of bemused distraction, and hurls himself to the floor, collides with another dancer, or bounds the stage in rapturously self-absorbed reverie. A whispering curiosity spreads through the audience as the usual assumptions about what an elderly body can do clash with his sinewy defiance of them.

Loretta Thayer

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At 69, Loretta, a farmer’s widow, transformed the defunct Silver Leaf Diner across from her house on Route 11 in DeKalb Junction, New York into a mecca for area pie lovers and a thriving community outpost.
“I could turn the diner into a place where people could stop, like they used to years ago for good food and good fellowship,” Loretta said of her vision of doing “something” in the wake of 9/11.

Naomi Wilzig

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Naomi Wilzig was more than a year into her quest when the proprietor of a store in St. Petersburg, Florida, approached her and asked what she was after. Still self-conscious about being “Mrs. Wilzig, the banker’s wife,” she answered by listing her respectable quarry. Just before she stopped speaking, she spit out, “And erotic art.”

Theodore Ludwiczak

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It was low tide when Theodore Ludwiczak put down his trowel and stepped back from the sixty-six-foot bulwark he had spent more than two years building. … (A) retired contact-lens grinder, (he) hoped the seawall would protect it from further erosion. As he assessed his handiwork, he felt a flash of disappointment. Aesthetic concerns replaced practical ones. “The wall looked bare and primitive,” he said, with a Polish accent. “It needed something.”

Nancy Gagliano

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Despite outstanding high school achievements, Nancy was denied a college education as a young woman. But after overcoming adversities, including the death of a child, the native Chicagoan finally realized her childhood ambition in 2002 when she was hired to teach second grade at Banyan Elementary School in Sunrise, Florida.

Myrna Hoffman

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“What keeps me going? . . . the universal ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’,” Myrna Hoffman said of her twenty-year, multi-chaptered entrepreneurial effort to make her prize-winning Morph-o-Scopes — an art activity toy based on the ancient mirror art of anamorphosis.

Barbara and Ira Smith

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1989, Barbara Smith wrote a notice asking members of her church in Acton, Massachusetts to donate goods to help re-settle a political refugee from war-torn El Salvador. For the next 10 years, she and husband Ira, then in their sixties, teamed up to haul beds, mattresses, stoves, and a vast assortment of household goods for the needy and made their home a community depot for what they then called the Household Goods Recycling Ministry. Ira, at first a reluctant helper, now says, “These have been the best years of my life.”