top of page

Successful Aging: Renewing goals with Life Transition Group, Project Renewment

This is the sixth year I have had the pleasure of participating in a conversation with eight men and eight women to discuss considerations, challenges and opportunities of a new life stage — some call retirement.

Cultural anthropologist Mary Catherine Bateson commented on this new life stage, writing: “We’ve added 20 years not to the end of life, but to the middle of life.”

For many this is a time of high expectations and launching of new aspirations, activities and relationships and ways to give back. For others it is a deepening of the values and relationships that have been part of their entire lives.

The participating men were from the Life Transition Group; the women from Project Renewment. All are highly effective and accomplished in their respective fields including business, law, higher education, social work, theater, advertising, engineering and more. Some are retired; others are working part time and yet others are engaged in full-time careers.

Some background:

Several years ago, Ron Dresher and Brian Harris, both longtime, successful marketing professionals, went for a bike ride along the beach and began to talk about their next chapter in life — commonly referred to as retirement. Both felt passionate about their work.

They questioned what they would do with their energy and commitment when no longer working. They felt motivated to become more knowledgeable and were ready to share experiences with others. Subsequently, they formed a group of like-minded men and called themselves the Life Transition Group and have been meeting for nine years in El Segundo with monthly speakers. The group has grown to 30 members.

The women’s group is called Project Renewment — a word combining retirement and renewal. Project Renewment is a conversation group and mini-movement started by my co-founder Bernice Bratter and me.

It all started in 1999 when Bernice called me after retiring from her second executive director position and asked if there was any research or programs focusing on career women. I replied, “I don’t think so.”

A lunch followed, when we decided to invite several like-minded women for dinner to discuss post-career life. There was much to discuss.

We never intended to expand. Despite our lack of intention, Renewment has grown virally to nearly 40 groups — most in Los Angeles, with some from the New England area down to Florida. Our global reach has begun with groups in Paris and Reykjavik, Iceland.

Renewment women also are like-minded with successful careers, wanting to create the next chapter of life to be equal to or even more satisfying than their previous ones. We meet monthly in small groups to discuss subjects relevant to the retirement transition and later stages of life. The groups have grown using the model described from our book “Project Renewment: The First Retirement Model for Career Women” (Scribner, 2008).

It consists of 38 essays on topics such as “Who Am I Without My Business Card?” and “What if He Retires First?” as well as a guide to start a group.

Our meeting with The Life Transition Group took place in a conference room in El Segundo around a large table with 16 seats. Characteristics common to both genders are dissatisfaction with the status quo for themselves and their communities; all are committed to continuous learning, growing and giving back with a sense of purpose, passion and pleasure.

Here are the topics we were invited to address:

• Describe a role model with whom you can identify.

• How do you maintain excitement, interest and enthusiasm?

• To what extent is this important to you?

Next week’s column will address these subjects.

Note: In response to last year’s column, a reader indicated she enjoys my columns but is annoyed. She wrote: “If the retired and highly effective folks are not capable of figuring out what to do with the rest of their lives, why don’t you invite some ‘empty nester’ stay-at-home moms to help you out? Some of us have been successfully navigating our lives, sans professional careers, quite productively with our identities fully developed.”

Good point. More to come next week.

Send emails to Helen Dennis at, or go to

bottom of page