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By Eric Reed
This article is a part of Studio/B’s Aging Strong series, exploring how individuals, from athletes to entrepreneurs, have navigated the challenges of aging—and the habits that can help others age strong too.
By societal norms there is an order to life. You go to school in your teens and early 20s. You get a job in your mid-20s and work steadily until you hit your 60s. Then you retire and ride off into the sunset, perhaps to work on your short game or travel in one of a few lifestyle-approved manners.
But as these entrepreneurs and adventurers show, age isn’t as all-important as it might seem.
Gary Arndt, 51
Travel photographer and writer; founder of Everything Everywhere
For Gary Arndt, 51, travel photography is a second career, or maybe third … or fourth, depending on how you count it.
After selling his web development company in the late 1990s, Arndt first decided to use his newfound freedom to sample a handful of professions. He tried founding a few other companies. Then he thought about going back to school for his PhD. But ultimately, in his mid-30s, Arndt booked a ticket to the South Pacific and launched the blog on which he publishes his travel photography and writing, Everything Everywhere. Now in his 50s Arndt is at the top of a field typically associated with 20-somethings bouncing their way between hostel bunk beds.
At least, Arndt says, that’s the perception of travel writing. What he quickly discovered was this perception couldn’t be further from reality. For example, Arndt sits on the board of directors of the society of American travel photographers. The society’s median age of membership? Around 65.
“When most people think of travel bloggers they’re probably thinking of Instagram influencers,” Arndt says. “But when you think of notable names in travel journalism you’re thinking of Rick Steves, who is in his mid 60s, or Arthur Frommer … It takes a lifetime to develop an expertise in travel. You actually have to go and do it.”
George Meyers, 57, and Linda Meyers, 56Founders of the Relais La Chiusa Hotel and Cooking in Tuscany
George, 57, and Linda, 56, Meyers spent most of their careers in Virginia and the Washington D.C. area. Linda Meyers worked as a schoolteacher, while George Meyers served as a pilot in the U.S. Air Force. Lifelong travelers, the pair describe themselves as the kind of people “that would just get in the car and drive.” Neither knew how far that attitude would take them until they retired and moved to Tuscany.
Living in Italy, the couple would give impromptu tours to their friends and family. Walks around town turned into deep dives into the food and culture of their new home. Eventually the Meyerses realized they had the beginnings of a cooking school on their hands. Years later a friend offered to sell them his hotel, too.
For the Meyerses, this career is more than just a second act. They have been building to it for years, learning the hospitality business with every informal tour they gave to friends and family.
“We always like to say we’ve been doing this our whole life,” says George Meyers. “When you come to visit us we want to show you what life is like here in Tuscany, in our little part of the world. [We] hope you’ve been able to change your life a little bit, the way you look at things and the way you look at the world.”
“It’s become way bigger than I ever dreamed,” says Linda Meyers. “More important and more special.”
Rossana De Gaspari, 50
Boston University student, Master of Science in Criminal Justice program
A mother of six, Rosanna De Gaspari didn’t have time to pursue the education she wanted as a young woman. At 46, with her children mostly grown, De Gaspari’s responsibilities changed. She decided to take the opportunity to go back to school and follow her passion.
De Gaspari began with the online bachelor’s program at Kaiser University, fitting her schedule around work and family. While there De Gaspari saw a lecture by Boston University’s Professor Kyung-shick Choi on cybercrimes against children. It took her back to the abused children that she would see during her years as a Dade County school teacher.
And De Gaspari decided she could do something about it.
Her mentor wanted her to pursue cybersecurity, De Gaspari says. “She said I’d do quite well … and I looked at her and I said, ‘I don’t actually want to do that. I want to go toward the criminal justice part.’ I feel like there’s a need there, I feel like there’s a mission to go out there and really help these children. I feel like I have the ability to do so in a different manner.”
She is currently in her first year of Boston University’s criminal justice master’s program. For De Gaspari returning to school at a later age came with new strength. Back when she was a teacher, she says, “it was a little too difficult for me to see what was going on … But now that life has gone on, and I’m 50, I feel like I’m ready. I have a thicker skin so to speak. The determination is there.”
Gordon, “GR,” Fletcher, 55
United States park ranger at Grand Teton National Park
“We got the call and it was a significant injury up high in the mountains,” says Gordon Fletcher, a ranger in the U.S. Parks Service.
“We thought it was a significant enough injury that we had to get him out that night. But it was too hazardous to move the guy. So we ended up spending the night with him until the next morning when it was safe enough to fly.”
This is Fletcher, 55, describing a fairly routine search and rescue operation, for him and his team just another day at the office.
Fletcher has served in the Park Service for 13 years. Casual travelers and adventurers alike flock to Grand Teton National Park for both its beauty and its rugged terrain. Yet the cliffs that draw mountain climbers can also spell very real danger for unwary hikers, and the same wilderness that can inspire can also get someone lost in a minute.
Every step of the way, Fletcher and his team are there. On a light day travelers can meet him clearing brush and giving directions. But when someone finds themselves stranded on the top of a mountain or badly injured with no way out, Fletcher grabs his pack and heads out to bring those hikers home. And while the rocks may seem a little steeper than they did 10 years ago he has spent that time learning these mountains.
“There’s a lot of rockfall potential,” Fletcher says. “There’s a lot of holds that, when you’re climbing, you can pull them off … We have a deeper experience of how to travel and what people need as we get more maturity. In these mountains, that knowledge is what counts.”