A third of men and women said they went through a period of "developmental crisis" in their 60s, the survey found.
But Dr Oliver Robinson, from the University of Greenwich, who is behind the research, said that while some people respond with the expected disappointment, others set new goals and enjoy a greater appreciation of their surroundings.
He said: "The findings suggest that the 60-69 decade is a key time for developmental crisis and this should be the focus of continued research.
"It seems that when loss-inducing events occur together or in close proximity in time, a person's capacity to cope in their 60s is overwhelmed and a later life crisis is precipitated.
"By better understanding such crisis episodes, psychologists are well-placed to understand mental health problems in this age group, which may well be affected by the events of a crisis.
"They will also be better placed offer help to promote positive post-crisis growth."
An initial online survey of 282 people aged over 60 found 32% of men and 33% of women had experienced a crisis since turning 60. Typically this featured bereavement, followed by illness or injury to self or others, and caring for an ill or disabled loved one.
Twenty of those surveyed were then interviewed, revealing that episodes of loss or serious illness made them more conscious about frailty and death.
Dr Robinson's findings were presented at the annual conference of the British Psychological Society in Harrogate, North Yorkshire.
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