Identity after 65: Reinvent Yourself

Apr 16, 2024

Growing older can provide a huge hit to your ego. Many older people feel invisible, especially women who are accustomed to being treated well because of their looks. You may no longer be working, which is where many people, especially men, derive their identity.

An Oregon State University study found that healthy individuals who retired early were 11% more likely to die than people who retired one year past 65. The theory is that they lost their identity and their sense of purpose.

At this point in our lives, we’re searching for a new identity. With the kids out of the house, we’re not really parenting. In retirement, we’re not considered employees. We’re no longer record-breaking athletes. We’re no longer considered jaw-droppingly beautiful or handsome.

What are we? Who are we?

Answering those questions will determine our future well-being.

In the past, we were able to choose our identities. We chose to become parents. We chose to specialize in a certain field of interest. We chose to work for a certain company. We chose to listen to certain music. We chose to dress a certain way to convey our status.

Now, we have to choose again. We must reinvent ourselves.

Who will you become?

Reinventing yourself is not something you do at one point in your life. We are constantly reinventing ourselves as our views and lifestyles change. It’s never too late to reinvent yourself.

Many people have made a difference near the age at which most people retire.

  • Kentucky Fried Chicken’s Harland Sanders went broke and was fired multiple times before he shopped his famous recipe with 11 herbs and spices.
  • Author Harry Bernstein wrote his first novel, The Invisible Wall, at the age of 97. He went on to write two other books, all of which have received critical acclaim and been translated into several languages.
  • Hale House founder Clara McBride Hale, after working as a daycare owner and foster parent, started helping drug-addicted parents and their babies when she was 64. Her work helped reunite hundreds of families.
  • Author Frank McCourt didn’t start writing until he was 65. He is the acclaimed author of Angela’s Ashes, ‘Tis and Teacher Man.
  • Peter Roget invented the thesaurus when he was 73.
  • Author Laura Ingalls Wilder didn’t publish her first book until the age of 65.
  • Artist Grandma Moses, Anna Mary Robertson Moses, didn’t pick up a paint brush until she was in her 80s.
  • Hare Krishna founder A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada started the International Society for Krishna Consciousness when he was 69.
  • Playing cards’ Edmond Hoyle was 70 when he began recording the rules of various card games.
  • Nelson Mandela was elected president of South Africa when he was 76.

The Admiral at the Lake has many stories of people who have reinvented their lives. One lady started painting for the first time after she moved to the continuing care community.

The Admiral’s Fitness Coordinator Donna Lakinger tells the story of one woman who inspires her: “I will never forget a particular resident coming to class for a few weeks when she first moved in. I naively assumed that she had experience with exercise as most people do. After a few weeks, she mentioned that this was the FIRST time she had EVER exercised in her life! She wasn’t sure if she was going to like it, but always wanted to try it. Three years later and she still comes down faithfully 3 to 4 days a week and loves classes.”

Although Phil Procida, another resident, had always been an athlete, his sport was running…until he developed knee problems. He now bicycles and has proven such an inspiration that he was mentioned in Parade magazine.

How can you reinvent yourself?

Key to developing new roles are self search and research.

#1 What have you always wanted to do that you haven’t done?

Athlete? Harriet Thomas first began running marathons when she was 76 and ran the Boston Marathon in 2016 at the age of 92.

Physician? Clarence Nicodemus earned his doctorate in osteopathy at the age of 61.

Inventor? George Weiss designed an app at the age of 84.

Student? The Admiral at the Lake offers courses from the University of Chicago on campus. Most U.S. colleges offer audited classes to people over 65 for a minimal or no fee.

#2 What kind of training do you need?

If you need only practice, you now have all the time in the world to practice. If you need instruction, colleges are encouraging nontraditional students.

#3 Why not give it a try?

Sometimes, people don’t realize all that’s entailed in reaching a goal. They find out they don’t really want to be a teacher after they’ve got a degree. Or they discover they hate performing after they’ve learned the guitar.

If you are interested in doing something, try volunteering. You can receive training and experience to help you determine whether your choice is right for you. lists local, national and international volunteer opportunities for older Americans. specializes in international opportunities.

Seniorcorps helps people age 55 and older find volunteer opportunities.

The Admiral at the Lake encourages you

At The Admiral at the Lake, we offer you multiple opportunities to become the person you’ve always wanted to be. Join our resident-directed travel club, participate in University of Chicago classes, learn how to paint in our creative arts studio, or take a yoga class in our fitness center.


Our energetic residents would prefer that you not call us a nursing home (although we do offer skilled nursing), retirement apartments or a senior retirement community. Instead, call us an active adult community or a life plan community, because that more accurately describes the vibrant lifestyle at The Admiral at the Lake. Schedule a personal tour today to discover how you can become part of our creative, active community.