Remember the glee with which you used to answer the question, "What do you want to be when you grow up?"

Fireman, ballerina, explorer, scientist, George Best . . .

Anything and everything was possible, and the future was so bright, you were probably wearing shades. And then you grew up a bit.

Maybe you weren't as good at physics as you needed to be to become an astronaut, or you loosened the grip that professional juggler' held over you.

But what if, 40 years down the line, you still don't feel like you ever became what you wanted to be?

While retirement might be closer now than it ever was, most people over 50 feel more inspired than retired - and a lot of them feel like they have only just hit the prime of their lives, according to new research.

So if you are twiddling your thumbs wondering what to do next, you're not alone: one in five others are seriously contemplating a career change to fulfil a lifetime job ambition.

The recent survey by learndirect Careers Advice, a Government-funded body that offers free advice on careers and learning, found that the majority of over-50s want to acquire new skills, specifically in construction, education and the creative arts, closely followed by interest in sport, leisure and the media.

While we tend to think of over-50s as well-established in their given field, it is never too late to take the plunge - just think of Anneka Rice, the television presenter who turns 50 in October.

After tackling mission impossibles' such as building an orphanage in 48 hours, the former host of Challenge Anneka left the world of TV to study at the Chelsea College of Art in London.

"We all have childhood dreams. And despite growing older, it is never too late to pursue something you have always wanted to do, whether you are still working or retired," she said. Anneka, who has since returned to TV, got her degree and, five years later, now receives regular commissions.

If you are feeling stuck in your current job but overwhelmed at the thought of leaving it, it might be because you are not quite sure what it is you would rather be doing.

"Ask yourself, What's important to me? What are my values? What do I enjoy doing and how can I turn that into a career?'" suggests life coach Keren Smedley.

"If the environment is important to you, start thinking about jobs where you might use the skills you already have - but don't just think Oh, we waste a lot of energy'.

"Be specific about what you could - or want - to do."

Brainstorming and visualisation exercises are key at this stage, says Keren. She suggests writing out your lifeline in decades.

"Draw a long line on a piece of paper and write down everything you can from when you were born to age ten," she explained.

"Moving house, the arrival of a new sibling, write it all down. Then do it again for the ages of ten-20, then 20-30, allowing your thoughts to flow freely, until you get to today. Now put your age - let us say 64 - at the start of your lifeline and imagine yourself at 94 looking back over the last 30 years. What have you been doing? How have you filled your time? What are the things you've always wanted to do? Don't just write down what's possible but what you really want, too."

Keren suggests putting away the lifeline for a bit and coming back to it later. Once you have returned to it, she says, you'll be able to identify what is important to you and the path you want to forge for yourself will be clearer.

Both Paula Hardwick and Keren Smedley agree that, despite whatever you might think to the contrary, the world is as much your oyster as it was when you were a child.

"You can't really become a ballerina or a brain surgeon after 50," laughs Keren. "But don't tell yourself you haven't got the qualifications to become a counsellor if that is what you want to do.

"There are lots of places where you can do a part-time masters course and then have a degree."

Keren runs a coaching consultancy for over-50s (, through which she runs workshops to help people sharpen up their CVs, cover letters and presentation skills.

"It doesn't matter if you are 25 or 65," she said. "Just because you are older doesn't mean you are capable of doing a job. You still need to prove that just as much as someone younger.

"But," she continues, "filling in CVs and application forms is completely different to how it was when we started in the workplace, and showing that you can do the job is something a lot of us don't know."

Keren works face-to-face and over the telephone with over-50s to help them get back in the game, as do career counsellors at learndirect.

"We offer a free CV service," explained Paula. "So even if you have never written a CV before, we have a CV builder on our website ( to help you make one.

"We also work on sentence structuring and presentation in cover letters and offer practical interview solutions."

But many over-50s are keen to leave the office, not go back into one, and many need advice on pursuing their passion.

"Most people tend to work for others their whole lives," Paula said. "And when they become retired they want to turn their hobby into money. One of the most sought-after careers is landscape gardening, particularly for those who have worked in an office through their 40s.

"People want to use their hands and be outdoors, but we have also seen professionals retrain as plumbers, and shopkeepers who become counsellors."

No matter what you choose as your next career path, however, one thing is absolutely central.

"Believe you can do it! We run our own heads - no-one else does it for us - and we can have anything in our head that we want," said Keren.

So what are you waiting for?

So you have done your lifeline and have a better idea of where you want to be in 30 years, but now you fear you are too old' to change jobs - or that no-one would want to hire a grumpy old lady like you with no real' skills.

Well, put those thoughts to rest, says Paula Hardwick, partnerships manager at learndirect: "Changing jobs is hard for anyone, but for older people, who might have been at the same job for years and sitting in their comfort zone, there's fear of change.

"But people in their 50s are more motivated and bring work and life experiences that can be transferred into other areas," he added.

"Demography-wise, the world needs us," agrees Keren Smedley, whose new book, Who's That Woman in the Mirror, is filled with ideas and expertise for career-changing over-50s.

She said: "The numbers of young people are decreasing across the Western world and businesses increasingly recognise that people in their 50s are actually fantastically good workers, extremely loyal and will give a lot more to a company than a 25-year-old who gets drunk and forgets to come into work the next day."