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Barbara Pagano – Live an Extraordinary Life

The Orchid Series

A collection of interviews featuring inspiring women over 75 years young. Curious, engaged, active, interesting. The sort of woman I want to be when I grow up!

Thirteen years ago—when she was 65 years old—Barbara Pagano stumbled on a longevity website. She plugged in her basic health information, along with her family’s diseases and history, and pressed submit. What popped up on the screen was her proposed life expectancy. And that number was 98.6.

Whether or not that number holds true, seeing it on her screen was a game-changer for Barbara. She realized, “Wow. This really can be me. I may have thirty more years.”

Fortunately, Barbara had her health, good genes, her husband and daughter, and a fulfilling career as a successful author, keynote speaker, and corporate coach.

She was content. But the magic question rolling around in the back of her mind—a question for all of us—was What do I want to do with the years I have left? “Yes, I’m happy,” thought Barbara. “But can I be happier?”

Her latest book, The 60-Something Crisis—How to Live an Extraordinary Life in Retirement offers a powerful message for the last third of our lives.

With research gathered from interviews with more than 200 retirees and individuals preparing to leave the workforce, Barbara guides readers on how to invest in themselves and live a satisfying life in their later years.

Barbara’s goal, despite the inevitable challenges, is for “people to fall in love with life after 65 and all it can offer to each of us.”

The biggest regret

While researching the book, Barbara discovered that “a big regret many have is they get to the end of life and wish they had lived truer to themselves.” Many wish they had devoted more time and energy to what they wanted to do, rather than what they should do. “I am determined not to review my life with regrets,” says Barbara.

 So…between that 98.6 flashing on the computer screen and the regret research she uncovered, Barbara made a decision. She would invest in herself and figure out what she wanted to do with her remaining time.


Barbara scoffed at the question, What are your dreams? That concept seemed too large for her.  “The idea of dreams didn’t move me,” she says. But what did move Barbara was the word aspiration.

According to Barbara, aspirations are possibilities. Oh, she might dream of packing up and moving to Paris for a year. But, for a variety of constraints, a French sabbatical is not doable for Barbara. Setting aspirations forces us to narrow our focus to what is possible, what we can do.

She advises that we look at each year ahead of us and, like a mental spreadsheet, decide how to fill our boxes. One individual may want to read 60 books during the following year. A couple may wish to take their grandchildren to Disneyland. Another woman may like to try her hand at knitting, writing, or painting. Cook Italian dishes, learn a bit of Italian, travel to Italy. Meet someone new and have thirty more years with that friend. Invest in a business and run it for 20 more years.

When she sets aspirations, continuing to work—about four hours a day—is a no-brainer for Barbara. “Writing books and articles and speaking to groups make me happy,” she says. She also enjoys the income.

“I had wonderful experiences with two grandmothers. And I want to be a crackerjack grandparent,” says Barbara. “I want to take my grandchildren places and buy them things. And that costs money.”

Tap dancing and bike riding were other activities she wished to pursue—other aspirations.

Setting intentions

After pondering aspirations, it is time to make choices and carry the idea forward. How do I make bike riding or tap dancing or Italian cooking or a Disneyland trip happen? “When the idea moves from aspiration to intention, we are FULL ON,” says Barbara.

In Barbara’s case, she visited bike shops, bought a bike, mapped out riding trails, and researched other women and groups who welcomed a new rider. She signed up for tap dancing lessons. She smiled sweetly at the store clerk who couldn’t believe Barbara needed tap shoes for herself.  

Barbara dove into both pursuits with “everything she had.”

In her dance class, Barbara is the oldest. She watches the new steps, videos the instructor doing them, and practices diligently at home. “High desire will trump your skill level,” she laughs.

“As we get older, we must be very protective of our self-confidence,” says Barbara.

Plenty of folks think she’s crazy to hop on a bike and zip down the Natchez Trace trail. What if something happens? She hears it again and again.

“But I am capable, and I want to try,” says Barbara.

Barbara believes many people accept a comfortable life. And that is their choice. But, through her book, she hopes readers realize they can change how they live at any time—at age 50, 60,70,80, or beyond.

At her recent tap dance performance, five women—all over 50—strode onstage. The audience applauded as the smiling women, in sparkly tops, denim jackets, and dance tights, shuffled and tapped to the music. “It’s not easy for me,” says Barbara, “but I practice hard and can hang with the others.”

And her grandkids are proud of their working, tap dancing, bike riding Gigi. How wonderful is that? “Part of my job is to set examples for my daughter and my grandchildren. Not that they will do it like I am. But I want them to see that our later years can be good—better than good—an extraordinary time in life!”

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