04/23/2011 01:59 pm ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Over 50? You're at the Height Of Your Powers

In last week's column, I introduced my new book, "RIPE: Rich, Rewarding Work After 50," by talking about 73-year-old Jack Palance at the 1992 Oscars. Remember his one-armed push-ups?

In one wildly amusing scene, Jack Palance was doing much more than auditioning. He was sending a powerful message that's taken us two decades to decode.

Palance was telling us we can keep working -- long after the arbitrary age when we're supposed to stop. Yes, we change as the years go by, but we need not lose the things we treasure.

Mental decline, for instance, isn't inevitable. Scientists say there's no reason our brains have to degenerate as we age; they're "plastic" and can grow and develop just as they did when we were younger.

Physical decline isn't unavoidable, either (as Palance proves). The physical changes we associate with aging, such as loss of strength, speed and agility, are not caused as much by the passing years as by our sedentary lifestyle. Just as we need to continue to use our brains, we need to keep moving our bodies.

The truth is that as we age, we actually improve in many ways. Enjoyment of life and happiness rise steadily after 50. We become more emotionally stable. And new capabilities and qualities emerge. (I'll write more about this in a future column.)

Part two of what Palance was saying? We must keep working. There is growing awareness that retirement isn't good for us. All the longitudinal studies of lifespan show that remaining "active and engaged" is essential to successful aging. Studies also reveal that people who continue to work live longer -- and remain in better health -- than their retired peers.

We have a lifetime of experience under our belts and are at the height of our powers. Men and women in their 50s, 60s, 70s and beyond have much to contribute.

What Palance knew 20 years ago is just beginning to resonate with the rest of us. In response, the world at large -- and the Baby Boom generation in particular -- has begun to change the way it thinks about aging, work and retirement.

Are you over 50 and ripe for change? Are you feeling at the top of your game? Are you finding that the world wants you to go away? Share your story with us below or feel free to email me via my website.

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"RIPE" is here! This spring, I'm writing about "RIPE: Rich, Rewarding Work After 50," a 12-week course on discovering passion, purpose and possibility at midlife. Check out the video (a.k.a. book trailer!):

Be part of the "RIPE" community on HuffPost, Facebook and Twitter. Together, we are going to change this phase of life!