*Editor’s note: This story originally published in October 2019. Since then, two of these amazing women have passed away but their wisdom lives on.
Nothing is the new black, and 60 can never (technically) be the new 40. But, how about instead we take a richer look at the actual reality of aging? Let’s expand perceptions instead of shoehorning this into that? That’s what Nora Hiatt did by organizing a conference “for women nudging 60 or over,” and even she was surprised by the resistance she found to acknowledgments of age. Nevertheless she persisted—without euphemisms and with clear eyes about what retirement age brings…weird elbow skin, freedom, and potential for greatness included.
And that’s how Next Chapter: Reinventing Retirement, happening 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. October 17 at The Orchard School, was born. Indy Maven talked to the women connected to the event, who told us about the new chapters they’re writing, even after the time in life that society told them they were done.
Tamara Zahn, 66
Next Chapter role: Advisory group, presenter, sounding board for Nora Hiatt.
Career identity: I have lived my life in 20-year chapters. Post-college development gypsy who lived in several cities focused on improving downtowns; mid-career founding president of Indianapolis Downtown, Inc., a nonprofit focused on developing, managing, and marketing Downtown Indy. This chapter: Supporting the upcoming generation of awesome women leaders.
60s superpower: Kindness.
What’s the wrongest idea you had about this age before you reached it? You don’t have to have it all figured out before you take the leap. In fact, it might be best if you simply stay open to the journey.
Fill in the blanks: “In my 30s I was focused on achievement, and now I’m shifting to being satisfied and contented!”
Nora Hiatt, 64
Next Chapter role: Organizer.
Career identity: Mostly-retired media producer and writer.
60s superpower: Confidence. I stopped worrying about what others think of me. (And I stopped coloring my hair.)
What’s the wrongest idea you had about this age before you actually reached it? That women this age stopped mattering. But it’s the reverse: We are at the point in our lives where, if we’re lucky, we have time and resources and wisdom. We are less worried about what others will think, because we believe in our own experience and judgment—and we speak up.
Fill in the blanks: In my 30s I was mostly focused on raising my two sons, and freelancing as a video producer and writer. Now I’m incredibly grateful to be healthy and in a great marriage, freed from the caregiving role, able to do meaningful volunteer work, and to take risks.
Jean Deeds, 77
*Editor’s note: Since this story was originally published, Jean Deeds passed away. She is greatly missed.
Next Chapter role: Presenter.
Career identity: I think of public relations as my career. For a number of years, I was the PR director at various non-profit organizations and entities, the last being The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. During my working years, I also taught elementary school and created health-related programs for children at parks.
60s superpower: After hiking the entire Appalachian Trail in my 50s, I spent my 60s leading hiking treks and Women for Adventure trips around the world.
What’s the wrongest idea you had about this age before you actually reached it? Being in your 70s sounded old and boring, as I thought life would have wound down by then, with few new adventures and not much variety in daily activities. I couldn’t have been more wrong! Life is as exciting and varied as you decide to make it.
Fill in the blanks: In my 30s I was a very traditional wife and mother, and now I’m considered an adventurer and a role model for others.
Betty Cockrum, 66
*Editor’s note: Since this story was originally published, Betty Cockrum passed away. She is greatly missed.
Next Chapter role: Presenter.
Career identity: Public servant for three decades and 15 years as a nonprofit leader and activist. I served the mayor of Bloomington and then lieutenant governor and (eventually) Gov. Frank O’Bannon. My final tour of duty was serving as president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky.
60s superpower: Four degrees of separation.
What’s the wrongest idea you had about this age before you actually reached it? I didn’t realize, after having been “all things to all people all the time” for decades, how mindful one needs to be to actually be RETIRED. It demands a very conscious, major rewiring of one’s brain and psyche. I work on it every day.
Fill in the blanks: “In my 30s, I was a single parent while climbing the career ladder, and now I’m a mom and a Bubbe and a connector.”
Marnie Maxwell, 64
Next Chapter role: Planning committee member.
Career identity: Nonprofit management consultant.
60s superpower: Nerdiness, if you’re talking about the 1960s. If you’re talking about age 60, I’d have to go with “organized.”
What’s the wrongest idea you had about this age before you actually reached it? In my 30s, there didn’t seem to be any 60-year-old women who had successful careers, which meant there wasn’t a clear path for “how to do life.” Now I realize no one has a roadmap and we’re all just doing the best we can to figure things out.
Fill in the blanks: “In my 30s I was happily single, and now I’m happily married.”
Barbara Shoup, 72
Next Chapter role: Presenter.
Career identity: Writer, teacher.
60s superpower: Unflappability.
What’s the wrongest idea you had about this age before you actually reached it? What surprises me is how much more I enjoy life at this age, how the things that used to upset me barely bother me at all. I love how my experiences have fallen into perspective over time, showing me what I couldn’t see when I was living through them. The great lesson of my life was to learn to be curious about myself, which made me objective enough to see (now) exactly how I got where I am—which I think is very cool.
Fill in the blanks: “In my 30s I was obsessed with being a writer, and now I’m still obsessed with being a writer, but I know what being a writer actually means.”
Diana Mutz, 56
Next Chapter role: Attendee.
Career identity: Former stay-at-home mom and teacher, community volunteer, music student.
60s superpower: Hoping for the ability to temporarily inhabit someone else’s body to either (1) gain their insights and knowledge or (2) make them do the right thing.
What’s the wrongest idea you had about this age before you actually reached it? I thought I would feel like a grown up! Inside I’m still 25. Don’t worry about aging. For that matter, the vast majority of all the things I ever worried about have never happened.
Fill in the blanks: “In my 30s I was convinced I had so much to learn, and now there is so much I want to learn.”
Helen O’Guinn, 67
Next Chapter role: Nonprofit fair manager.
Career identity: Editor at HighPoint, where I edit for Medicare and the Affordable Care Act.
60s superpower: Willing to try most anything without fear of embarrassment.
What’s the wrongest idea you had about this age before you actually reached it? First, I imagined that my musical passions would morph from rock and roll to classical. (I wasn’t sure if it would happen gradually or I’d just wake up one morning preferring Beethoven to the Beatles.) While I listen to more classical music, I’m still a rocker and my favorite band is the Killers.
Second, I thought that while other people’s collagen might give way, mine would magically hold out. Wrong. I’ve got wrinkles just like everyone else, but they don’t horrify me like I thought they would.
Fill in the blanks: “In my 30s I was sure I had plenty of time to accomplish all my goals, and now I’m much choosier about what I add to the list.”