Meet Carol Orsborn, A Boomer Who’s Not Mellow or Serene: Why She’s Become “Fierce with Age”

by Anne Holmes on April 15, 2013

Today, we introduce you to Dr. Carol Orsborn, who has been  a leading voice for her generation of women since she founded her first life-stage initiative, Overachiever’s Anonymous, in the late 1980’s.  This organization is credited as a progenitor of both the simplicity and work/life balance movements.

Carol has spent her life chronicling the challenges faced and overcome by the women of her generation. In the process, she’s written or co-authored 21 books, including: “The Art of Resilience: 100 Paths to Wisdom and Strength in an Uncertain World” (Random House) and “Nothing Left Unsaid: Words of Strength and Wisdom to Help You and Your Loved Ones through the Hardest Times” (Conari).

Dr. Orsborn served as co-founder of Fleishman-Hillard’s FH Boom, the first global initiative by a top ten public relations firm dedicated to helping brands connect with the Boomer generation.

She is also co-author of “Vibrant Nation:  What Women 50+ Know, Think, Do and Buy” (preface by Ken and Maddy Dychtwald/co-author Stephen Reily) and the first groundbreaking book on the subject of Baby Boomer Women as consumers: “Boom: Marketing to the Ultimate Power Consumer–the Baby Boomer Woman(with Mary Brown.) Carol also served in the formative role of Senior Strategist for

In addition to her prolific writing accomplishments, Carol has appeared multiple times on The Today Show and on Oprah, NBC Nightly News and in the pages of  The New York Times, USA Today, People Magazine and The Wall Street Journal.

Dr. Orsborn received her Masters of Theological Studies and Doctorate in the History and Critical Theory of Religion from Vanderbilt University, studying adult development and ritual studies. She has done post-graduate studies in spiritual direction at Stillpoint Center for Christian Spirituality in Los Angeles and at the New Seminary of Interfaith Studies in Manhattan.

Teaching ethics and resilience, she has served on the faculties of Georgetown University, Vanderbilt University’s Leadership Development Center of the Owen Graduate School of Management, Loyola Marymount University and the Doctoral Program in Organizational Leadership at Pepperdine University’s Graduate School of Educational and Psychology.

An avid blogger, Carol’s blog and op-ed credits include PBS’s Next Avenue, Huffington Post, Humana’s and, although her primary blog remains her own:

Drawn from her diary, “Fierce with Age: Chasing God and Squirrels in Brooklyn” is essentially a tell-all about the state of her soul, during the year she chronicles. In our opinion, it aptly captures, via one woman’s voice and experience, the conflict and emotions facing our Baby Boomer generation today.

After reading it, we knew we needed to reach out to Dr. Obsborn and we did. As a result, she graciously agreed to answer our (almost famous) “Voices of Baby Boomer Women” blog questions, and even offered up an excerpt of this amazing book, which explains why she says that at 65 she is neither mellow or serene, but instead is Fierce with Age. Enjoy!

Using one paragraph, tell us a bit about yourself?

Carol Orsborne In my latest book Fierce with Age:  Chasing God and Squirrels in Brooklyn, I wrote that I used to be “Carol Orsborn”, now I’m not any more.

Most anyone who has broken denial about aging and had to battle the external and internalized ageist stereotypes on the way to the other side of midlife can identify.

I’m happy to report that over the course of that book, and in the year since, I’ve been able to retrieve most of the good parts–and transformed much of the others.

Meanwhile, here’s my formal bio: Carol Orsborn, Ph.D. is author of 21 books and Founder of, the Digest of Boomer Wisdom, Inspiration and Spirituality.

She is an internationally-known thought leader specializing in issues related to Boomer women, spirituality, adult development and quality of life. With a doctorate in the History and Critical of Religion from Vanderbilt, Dr. Orsborn is sought after as a speaker/retreat leader on resilience, aging and marketing to Boomers.

Tell us about your family; married, divorced, children, grands, boomerangs or parents living with you, etc.

I’ve been married to Dan since we were in our early 20’s.  Our daughter is in London, launching a start-up website and our son, his wife and our 3-year-old grandson Mason live close to us in Nashville, Tennessee.                                                          

What is your favorite childhood memory that is reminiscent of growing up in the 50s, 60s or 70s?

 In sixth grade, I won the role of the Cowardly Lion in our school production of The Wizard of Oz.  I got lots of applause just for letting myself give full expression to myself in that role.  After all these years, some of us who had leading roles still refer to each other as “Tin Man”, “Dorothy” and so on. 

What qualities do you have that speak of our generation of women?

 I would have to say I’m irrepressible.  This quality definitely speaks to our generation of women.  There have been so many challenges over so many decades, it’s hard to believe that we still feel entitled to our full portion of joy and fulfillment.  Anything less simply means that we’re not done yet!

What inspires you?

 I devour books about spirituality and aging, especially memoir.  But I enjoy some advice books as well.  What inspires me is when an author is willing to reveal the truth of his/her journey beyond midlife, embracing the shadow as well as the light.

What brings you the most pleasure in midlife?

 I’m 65 and while I know most who are 65 still consider themselves to be middle-aged, I don’t consider myself to be in midlife any longer.

I still work, am actively physically and look younger than the stereotypes of what it means to be old.  However, I am eager to explore what this new life stage has to bring to me. 

I think of being old as being free from other people’s expectations and the need to perform in specific ways. What brings me the most pleasure is the dropping away of fear of aging and activating new, unprecedented levels of self-affirmation and spiritual growth.

Day-to-day, I’m loving being part of my grandson’s life and my extended family.

 Do you have any interesting hobbies?

 I’m running a website called  Fierce with, the Digest of Boomer Wisdom, Inspiration and Spirituality.  Subscriptions to the bi-weekly featuring the best writing about spirituality and aging on the Web are free.  It feels more like an avocation or calling than a hobby, though. 

I’m also about to have a micro-site launched by the same name and theme on

Do you have a favorite book or movie? If so, tell us why it’s your favorite.

I have too many to pick just one.  However, a recent favorite is Sister Joan Chittister’s The Gift of Years:  Growing Old Gracefully. She writes beautifully about regret, calling it a sand trap of the soul. Regret comes dressed up as serious introspection, but traps us in the past.  She’s very big, as am I, on forgiving the past and getting on with it.

Do you travel and if so, who are your favorite travel partners and where do you like to go?

 With my daughter in London, most of our discretionary time/dollars are spent going back and forth from the US to the UK. 

I have traveled a lot ever since I backpacked through Europe several times in the 60’s.  I have found living places, rather than “touring”, to be the most satisfying, having lived in Washington, DC., NYC, Napa, Portland, Maine, L.A., S.F. and now Nashville. 

To tell you the truth, at this exact moment, I enjoy nothing more than sitting on the banks of the river that runs past my new stone house and enjoying having no place I feel I need to go, nothing I feel I have to do.

 Do you practice preventive medicine? Please elaborate. 

 I don’t think of myself as “practicing”, but rather as living as healthy as I can.  I do t’ai chi; I walk; I’m eating Paleo.

What do you stress about?

 On any given day, just about anything. On a good day, nothing.  When I do stress, the first place I usually go to is worrying about our children’s and grandchildren’s generations and the state of the world.  In particular, I worry that they won’t have the same opportunities to achieve a degree of economic stability while doing meaningful things as I had. 

 Is it important for you to retain your youthful looks, and if so, to what degree are you willing to go?

 I like the idea of looking good and there are times when looking good and looking young overlap—but not always.  I use a good moisturizing lotion and that’s about it.  The rest is in God’s hands.

 Have you re-invented yourself, and if so, how?

 Up until a couple of years ago, I made my living primarily as a marketing expert helping brands build relationships with Boomer women.  I was a proponent of the anti-aging message:  that our generation is prolonging midlife by looking, feeling and acting years younger than our chronological age. 

Over the past couple of years, I’ve been able to break free from my role as marketer to fulfill my lifelong dream as spiritual director and writer. 

I’m now squarely in the pro-aging camp, encouraging my generation of women to embrace both the shadow and light of aging to be whole.

 Do you plan to retire?

Retire is a word/concept with which I don’t relate.  I think in terms of wanting to be free to pick and choose my involvements regardless of if or how much the opportunity happens to pay. I like staying busy and I’m busier than ever.  fierce with Age

 Are you doing anything to GO Green?

 Just switched out all our windows to lower energy costs.

Can you pinpoint major turning points in your life that led to your life’s work/play at midlife?

 I had breast cancer in my late 40’s, giving me an opportunity relatively early in life to come to terms with mortality. 

Everything since then has been a bonus, and I do relish every day.  I was diagnosed on the same day I was accepted into the doctoral program in history and critical theory of religion at Vanderbilt, so the two have converged in my mind as a major turning point, and a new beginning.

Do you still have unfulfilled dreams, and are you doing anything to accomplish them?

I am excited to be part of the “Conscious Aging Movement.”  This is an incredible time to be getting older, finding like-spirited associates who are equally intrigued by the possibilities to be found on the wild side of midlife. 

I’ve spent so much of my life in competitive situations and careers, it’s a blessing to be supporting others, and feeling the support back.  It is my dream that aging—and this new way of being together in community that is dawning on such a grand scale—be given the respect that it deserves.

How do you make a difference in the lives of others, your community, your world?

I’ve broken denial about aging and I’m the happiest I’ve ever been.  Society needs its elders and I am learning what it takes to fill this role.

 Who has had the biggest influence on your life and why?

 My husband. We met when we were in our early 20’s.  While my parents loved me, they did not love me unconditionally.  It was in relationship to Dan that I first learned what compassion, generosity and acceptance could mean. 

Dan has been my biggest supporter and gave me a nest from which to soar—and to return to, keeping me grounded.  He is, as the song goes, the wind beneath my wings.

If you were to have a personal mission statement, what would it be? Feel free to be as serious or fun as you choose.

You’ll really appreciate this if you read my book, but I think any pet lover will resonate.  It’s purpose enough in life to just make one dog happy.


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