At any point in your life, did you dream of becoming a pilot, learning to speak French or skydiving? With your kids out of the house and a little more time to relax, now is your chance to try something new or revisit longtime goals.
The following seniors show that it’s never too late to chase your dreams. Let their stories inspire you to achieve the items on your bucket list.
On a sunny day in September 2009, 66-year-old Jane Blume strapped on a harness, took a deep breath and stepped off the top of a 14-story building in Albuquerque, New Mexico, near her home. She was working as a public relations professional to promote a fundraiser where participants would rappel off a building—and then decided to sign up for the challenge herself. She’d always been concerned about heights and had long sought to conquer that fear. To prepare, she worked with seasoned rock climbers at a local climbing gym and received coaching in spiritual therapy to calm her nerves. When the day came, she was ready and says she smiled ear-to-ear the whole way down.
In her words: “Whatever you decide to do, seek advice and support from experienced people who can coach you.”
Zip Line Through Forests
It was on a family hiking trip in the mountains as a child that George Cramer first learned that he was afraid of heights. Decades later, around his 67th birthday, Cramer saw an advertisement for zip lining and made it his mission to conquer his fear. Within a few months, the California-based retired police officer was standing on a zip-lining platform while on vacation in Maui. He took the leap and felt a surge of happiness, his fear melting away. Today, at age 69, Cramer counts zip lining as one of his favorite activities; he went again in early 2013 while on vacation in Kauai and plans to continue his new hobby at other destinations.
In his words: “Don’t act your age. Just because we’re old in the eyes of society doesn’t mean we have to sit in a rocker and act like old people. Be young in mind and spirit. If you want to try something new, do it.”
Join a Team
As a child in a small town, Jackie Stephens was discouraged from playing sports, saying there was a lack of medical services for African-Americans if anyone were to get hurt. So she made a promise to herself that she would one day play on a team. That day came when she was 60, at the end of a long teaching career. After reading an article about a senior basketball team, Jackie signed up. Today at 72, the North Virginian plays on a local team of women ages 70 and older. Though she'd never played on a team before, she learned the game quickly and enjoys the camaraderie with team members.
In her words: "I want to be part of the 'now generation' of aging persons who don't just sit. We're out there trying to accomplish goals that we never thought of before."
Learn an Instrument
Throughout her life, Ann Clark, 82, always enjoyed orchestral concerts but never learned how to play an instrument. She especially loved the cello because of its deep, resonant tone and vowed to learn the instrument someday. Then in February 2013, the Independence, Missouri, resident teamed up with a community volunteer for three cello lessons. She enjoyed the experience and fulfilled an item on her bucket list. Though she no longer takes lessons, she frequently picks up the cello to play chords she learned.
In her words: “If you are afraid, remember that you can always opt out later. Give it a try— you may like it!”
Self-publish a Book
At age 65, former lawyer Boyd Lemon decided to switch gears and become a writer. A publisher asked him to write a book on law and he enjoyed the process. After completing the book, he began to explore his personal life through the written word. In 2011, he self-published “Digging Deep: A Writer Uncovers His Marriages,” a memoir on the demise of his three marriages. Since then, Georgia-based Lemon has written five more books including “Eat, Walk, Write: An American Senior’s Year of Adventure in Paris and Tuscany. At 72, he has no plans to slow down.
In his words: “Discover a passion and pursue it. With passion, your retirement years will be incredibly fulfilling.”
Learn a Language
With three Chinese-born grandchildren living in Singapore, Ann Westney made it her mission to learn Mandarin. In February 2013, the 90-year-old resident of Millbrook, New York, inquired into classes at a local senior living community. She and a friend were matched up with students who were majoring in Chinese studies at nearby Vassar College. For an entire semester, the students met with Westney and her friend for an hour each Friday. Westney was primarily interested in conversational Mandarin—not the written language—so she says it was easier to catch on. She is excited to use her newfound phrases while chatting with her grandchildren at a reunion this summer.
In her words: “Learning something new is a great way to stay young at heart. The mental challenges are welcome and it helps if a person is enthusiastic about the subject.”