02/06/2014 at 11:30 AM EST
When you reach 60, you've earned the right to celebrate yourself a little bit. But Oprah Winfrey
, who hit the milestone
on Jan. 29, initially found herself thinking of others.
"First I thought this: I thought about all the people who didn't make it," the talk-show legend told PEOPLE Wednesday at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, where she received the Montecito Award for her performance in Lee Daniel's The Butler
and for her life's work.
"I thought about when I was 48 and having heart palpitations and I thought I was dying, but it was really just the beginning. Really I was just perimenopausal," she said. "I thought about 9/11. I thought about all the people who got up and they took their dogs out the same way I did. They made their coffee. They made their tea. They put their robes on, and they went off for the day. And they never made it, and they were 22, and 37, and 48, and 52, and they never would ever see 60. So, I thought about that."
On the subject of untimely deaths, she was asked about Philip Seymour Hoffman
, whom she interviewed in 2006. "Here was a person who embodied the richness of life, really the richness of life in every way," she said.
On a lighter note, Winfrey also remarked on how lucky she felt, and how she's mellowed through the years.
"I thought how remarkable [it is] I've had this amazing life. I get to be here in this town," Winfrey, who lives in nearby Montecito, says. "Eventually, I will be able to call it home ... And what's great about 60 is you are through with the bullsh–t, it means you are really and truly through."
"Now, Camille Cosby had told me at 40 that happens, but 40 you're still ... in the race, you're still competitive. And at 50, you're still like, 'Do I need to?' 60? You are chilled. You are chilled, and you have nothing to prove, and you can sit above that perch with a sense of knowing that you are who you want to be, inside and out, and it's good. Life is good. 60 and a week, baby!"