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    BWS Stories - "If I Could Save Time In A Bottle"...Embracing Our Authentic Selves

    "If I Could Save Time In A Bottle"...Embracing Our Authentic Selves - Learning Later, Living Greater: The Story of a Late Bloomer Boomer

    Nancy Merz Nordstrom, M. Ed., is the author of Learning Later, Living Greater: The Secret for Making the Most of Your After-50 Years, published by Sentient Publications in Boulder, Colorado. Nancy blogs and writes columns for several online sites that focus on adults over the age of 50.  These sites include - and  She maintains a web site at that provides information for the general public.

    Learning Later, Living Greater: The Story of a Late Bloomer Boomer

    Follow your bliss!  At age 63, I never thought I’d be living these famous words by Joseph Campbell. But when I realize that I’m doing the work I love and sharing my life with a wonderful man -  well, to me that’s bliss!

    As a first-time author, I guess you could say my whole life set the stage for the point that I’ve now reached. It’s been hard, and there were times when I wondered what I was doing. But I kept going. Now, looking back it’s easy to see how it all came about, but at the time…

    I married my high school sweetheart; we had four children, and a nice, normal life, complete with its ups and downs. Once our children were school-age I went to work as a secretary, but my main focus was always the family. Then in our 40’s, my husband and I began making plans for the future.

    How does that old maxim go? Life is what happens when you’re making other plans, or something like that. Well, our plans for the future came to an abrupt halt early on a warm August morning in 1993, when I found my 48 year-old husband dead of a heart attack.

    The shock and grief kept me in a kind of fog for several years. I tried all the usual routes for coming to terms with his death – grief therapy, life counseling, immersing myself in work, but nothing seemed to help put the pieces of my life back together or help me wrestle with the idea of no longer being part of a twosome. As someone who was raised to believe that a woman’s primary role in life should be wife and mother, the loss of that role was a huge adjustment and one that did not come easy.

    Slowly, however, the fog began to lift. As I struggled for a way out of my grief I began stepping outside my comfort zone, no easy task.

    First, I began attending workshops, support groups, conferences and weekend getaways, all run by and for women. Every event I attended gave me the opportunity to bond with other women, to express myself through creativity and discussion.  I fully expected that this would be my life from now on, and threw myself completely into this wonderfully supportive environment. The work I’ve done over the years with women’s groups has been a powerful cathartic for me.

    Next, I found myself thinking about travel. What I had noticed, much to my dismay, was that ads for travel and vacations all placed heavy emphasis on “couple-hood.” It was very off-putting, especially for someone who was still trying to come to terms with her new status as a single woman.

    One day I came across an ad in a women’s newspaper for educational travel programs – programs where single women could feel safe and included. Since I loved the story of Heidi as a child, I decided on a trip to the Austrian and Italian Alps.

    Except for some overnight stays in New England B&B’s, I had never traveled alone, much less outside the U.S. I didn’t even have a passport! So this decision was another very big step outside my comfort zone. Little did I know at the time where taking that step would lead.

    Off I went to Austria and Italy, and had a fabulous time. While in Austria we attended lectures at the University of Innsbruck, and I found I loved being back in the classroom. That experience, combined with all the women’s workshops and programs I had been taking back home, solidified the thought that had been lurking in the back of my mind, under my grief, the idea of going back to school.

    So, in the fall of 1996, at age 51, I took another big step and entered Cambridge College. What an environment! It was stimulating, invigorating, almost a fountain-of-youth for me, and it literally turned my life around. I emerged six semesters later, in 1998, with a Masters of Education degree. My focus was adult education and psychology as I saw first-hand the power of adult education and what it was doing for me as a mature adult. I realized what I really wanted was to work in some kind of venue that promoted adult education, especially for older adults. While I was trying to decide how to use my brand new diploma, I continued working as the Assistant to the President of an old, historic Boston-area institution. While at this job, I met a gentle, caring man and we became friends. Our friendship was a direct result of yet another step outside my comfort zone.

    In the years following my husband’s death, I had become a fan of the TV program – Star Trek: The Next Generation. For Valentine’s Day my kids had given me a huge poster from the show with a Valentine theme. Deciding to put it up on my office wall was not easy. Would people think I was nuts? But I did it anyway, and that led to the connection with my co-worker as he too was a fan of the same program.

    From there our friendship slowly developed and we were married on a hilltop overlooking the Boston skyline in September of 2000. I was 55 years old.  Walking down the aisle again had never entered into my new life equation.  But surprise! There’s that old maxim again – Life is what happens when you’re making other plans. How true! 

    Early in 1999, I had taken yet another, seemingly small step, but one that would lead to even more change. I put an ad in my local neighborhood paper looking for women to form a walking group. Struggling with my own weight, I needed walking support and what better way than by gathering a group of women together? That ad drew a nice response and we were off!

    In talking with the group as we walked, I found out that one of the women worked for an organization called Elderhostel, Inc., that provided educational travel programs for older adults. She mentioned a job opening that was coming up. One thing led to another and at the end of August, 1999, I went to work for Elderhostel and found my perfect job. For the next five years, from their headquarters in Boston, I directed the Elderhostel Institute Network (EIN), North America’s largest educational network for older adults. Different from Elderhostel’s regular type of educational travel programming, EIN helps start new lifelong learning institutes or learning in retirement programs, for older learners at local colleges, universities, retirement communities and other venues.

    We also provide resources to all these programs, help organize regional conferences, and promote communication between all the programs. Today we have over 380 programs affiliated with EIN. It is a stimulating and enriching job that feeds my soul and helps me feel as if I have fulfilled my educational goals.

    In 2004 my husband and I left Boston and moved to New Hampshire, but I have continued my work with Elderhostel, working from home. In 2004 I also seriously began thinking about an idea which had been lurking in the back of my mind for sometime – writing a book about lifelong learning for older adults.

    So, once again I took a step outside my comfort zone, and after a lot of hard work, in the early fall of 2006, “Learning Later, Living Greater: The Secret for Making the Most of Your After-50 Years,” became a reality when it was published by Sentient Publications in Boulder, Colorado.

    It seemed to me they were a perfect match for the book, which is a kind of “transformative, holistic approach to fostering human potential” in one’s later years, as their web site says. It was, after all, conceived and written to inform the Baby Boomers and others about the value lifelong learning can bring to their later years. A user-friendly, easy, breezy read, a kind of guidebook for the After-50 years, the title really says it all.

    So here I am today, just about two years later, and the book is still selling. I’m busy marketing it any way I can; radio interviews, TV shows, press releases, the Internet, speaking engagements, you name it. Today, unless authors are very well known they also have to be marketers.   

    I feel truly blessed and grateful. I’ve got a wonderful family, three gorgeous grandchildren, a terrific and supportive husband, and work about which I feel very passionate. Not bad for a late bloomer Boomer!

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