By Hollie Deese
Anna Walker was preparing to relaunch her image consulting business after a 10-year hiatus, but she had some doubts. Then she heard about AARP’s Life Reimagined program from a friend.
Walker, 50, of Nashville, attended a Life Reimagined Checkup—a 90-minute workshop filled with activities and conversation—then completed a variety of online Life Reimagined programs, tackling topics from career preparation and launching a business to valuing your potential.
“My friend introduced me to Life Reimagined because she knew it would help me focus on what I needed to do to relaunch the business,” she recalled. “When I first went to the Checkup, I met people who were in the same place. I was really encouraged.”
Walker credits the Checkup and the online activities with helping her focus on the key things she wants to achieve in life and work.
They have also helped her determine whether new opportunities that present themselves fit into the master plan. “It helps you become more intentional,” she said.
Walker is now part of AARP Tennessee’s volunteer leadership team. Trained as a Life Reimagined guide, she has conducted several Checkups and has seen people deal with issues such as unwanted retirement, late-in-life career changes and postretirement opportunities.
Not your typical class
“With Life Reimagined, I think each person can find a pathway to discover their purpose, because it’s not your typical kind of class,” Walker said.
Denise Owens, 55, of Nashville, attended two Life Reimagined sessions in 2015 while looking for guidance when her salary was being cut at a job she loved. She said the program helped her ask the right questions about what she was really looking for in her work.
“I’m continuing to use it to decide what my next step is going to be,” she said. “Am I looking just for a job to pay money so that I can do what I love on the side? Am I looking to possibly be an entrepreneur? It’s helping me to think in those terms as well.”
Owens said the program encourages introspection, as opposed to offering hard-and-fast advice, an approach that takes into account the participants’ varied backgrounds.
“Everything is about a choice, and I think that’s really special,” she said. “I like that it’s an acknowledgment that we’ve all had our own life and experiences. It’s really about deciding where you are in life and if that is where you want to stay, or are you ready to explore something new?”
Life Reimagined was launched by AARP in 2012 to help people navigate through times of transition.
“A lot of people can relate to the concept of looking at what’s next in life,” said Andrea Neely, AARP Tennessee associate state director for multicultural outreach.
“So many people have or will go through some type of transition, be it moving from the workforce to retirement; dealing with life events, death or divorce; or taking on a role as a caregiver in some capacity.”
Life Reimagined even resonates with younger people looking for guidance as they move from college to work, start a family and take on more responsibilities.
“I have found over the years that most people’s pathway to purpose is circuitous, rather than direct,” Walker said, “and it takes something like Life Reimagined to help them focus on what they really want to do in life.
Lori Bumgarner, 42, signed up for the free Life Reimagined classes as a way to learn something new about affording her dreams and was struck by the knowledge she was able to learn from women at the session with more life experience.
“Most of them were at retirement age or about to reach retirement age, and to understand what their challenges are helped me to understand that older demographic better,” Bumgarner said.
Neely said that during Checkup sessions people’s creativity really begins to flow, and many strongly start considering doing things they’ve buried for years because of the responsibilities of daily life.
“I have found myself in that position,” Neely said. “I’m still kind of in that position, personally and professionally.”
Neely recently met with a group Tennessee veterans about Life Reimagined in the hopes of forming a community group that addresses all the things transitioning out of the military brings, from finding benefits to learning new employment skills.
“A lot of their concerns are not knowing how to access benefits, or having too much pride to ask,” Neely says. “We often function as a connector with groups to open up conversations and brainstorm in utilizing our resources and tools.”
To become a Life Reimagined volunteer, call 866-295-7274 toll-free and indicate your interest, or email firstname.lastname@example.org or Neely at email@example.com, with Life Reimagined in the subject line.
Hollie Deese is is a writer living in Gallatin, Tenn.