Encore Careers: Work That Matters in the Second Half of Life

There are number of encore career pathways available to you as you explore what’s next after “retiring” from your current career. One of the pathways that can be truly exciting is civic engagement.

I’m not talking about traditional volunteerism. I’m talking about what Marc Freedman, author of Encore: Finding Work That Matters in the Second Half of Life, describes as work that combines 1) making a social impact, 2) finding personal meaning and, 3) earning continued income in the second half of life. It’s work that matters. It’s social entrepreneuring. It might surprise you to learn that that the 55-64 age group is the most active in creating new ventures; people ages 20-34 are the least entrepreneurial.

What kind of a social innovator might you be if you mixed your creativity, experience and passion with a desire to do something bigger than yourself?

For Elizabeth and Stephen Alderman, life as they’d known it irreversibly changed when their youngest son was killed on 9/11. To honor his life, Elizabeth and Stephen started the Peter C. Alderman Foundation to treat the one billion victims of trauma and terrorism around the world by creating homegrown mental health systems where violence (rape, war, kidnapping) has laid waste to communities. Elizabeth (a special education teacher) and Stephen (a doctor) have channeled their grief into a beautiful legacy for their son.

Judith Broder was so moved by a play she saw depicting the trauma that soldiers experience in war, she created The Soldiers Project. As a psychiatrist, Broder knew that, without help, some soldiers would never get past what they had seen and done, and how it affected not just their lives, but the lives of their loved ones, too. Through The Soldiers Project, Judith recruits mental health professionals who provide free, confidential, unlimited therapy to service members and their families.

Psychologist Marcy Adelman knew first-hand that many LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) seniors looking for housing and care late in life face discrimination and loneliness. She set out to provide affordable, LGBT-friendly housing and training for service providers to better support LGBT elderly. The success of her organization, Openhouse, is reflected in the dramatic improvement of mainstream services available to LGBT seniors in the San Francisco Bay area.

These four people have created extraordinary encore careers for themselves, and they epitomize the spirit of social entrepreneurship. Each has found the place where people are falling through the cracks in their communities (and around the world), and they’ve built new models for — and creative new ways of — serving.

Elizabeth, Stephen, Judith and Marcy are four of the 2009 winners of The Purpose Prize, a program of the Encore Careers campaign which aims to engage millions of baby boomers in encore careers to produce “a windfall of human talent to solve society’s greatest problems, from education to the environment, health care to homelessness”. For more information and inspiration go to www.encore.org.

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