The world has become a time poor place.  More mothers no longer stay at home, and both women and men often have busy careers.  Schools struggle for volunteers for trips – many don’t rely on parent helpers as much as they did in years gone by – and there are fewer people around to regularly visit the sick or elderly and fill all those little gaps in our communities where simply care and time are needed.

However, could the aging baby boomers be a new and emerging resource to bless our communities in ways just such as this?  Author Marci Alboher thinks so and has just released her new book The Encore Career Handbook: How to make a living and a difference in the second half of life.  The book aims to help people to develop new skills later in life and shape new career paths. 

Human Resources website Knowledge@Wharton reports:

At one time, many people in the Western world anticipated retiring in their 50s or 60s. Now, they are embarking on new careers at the very time that they might have previously been expected to begin a life of leisure. Increased longevity and a drive to keep contributing to society have led to what are often referred to as “encore careers” — new endeavours that are often very different from a person’s past experience.

These endeavours may be paid or they might not, but regardless they are often much more closely connected to a person’s need for purpose in their life – the joy of giving and contributing to society in creative and innovative ways rather than staying at home ‘retiring’. 

Marci Alboher is vice-president of Encore.org, a non-profit organisation that aims to help the growing numbers of people who want to plan for a later stage of work that aligns with their values.  The organisation is driven by the idea that the aging population should be seen as a resource, rather than a problem. Alboher comments:   

There are a few things that have converged at this time. Demography is a big part of it. We’ve heard about the gray tsunami — the aging wave of baby boomers coming down the pipe. Ten thousand baby boomers are turning 65 every day, and it’s going to be like that for the next 20 years or so. By 2050, we’re going to have more people over 65 than under 30. This is a very big demographic shift. At the same time, we have a longevity shift. It’s not so much that we’re living longer; we are living longer technically by a few years. But the period of life that’s extended — 50s to 70s — are years of vitality and engagement that used to be years that weren’t that useful to people.

To people who might be considering an Encore career she advises the following:

Getting started is a two-part process…You have to figure out where you are in your life and what you are looking for. What could you be doing to add more social impact to where you are right now?  If you’re planning for the future, if you are a few years away from the time to make a shift, what could you do now to lay a foundation? Could you be exploring what interests you? Could you be taking some courses on the side?…

People must also recognize that this just isn’t about you and your own reinvention. You have to be a part of changing the world for future generations.

This kind of thinking is creative and positive.  People already chop and change careers much more than they used to and adaptability is now considered a key skill.  ‘Encore’ careers seem to be something that could follow quite naturally from a shift which is already taking place.  What’s more, having a major group in the workforce that is thinking less about money and more about contributing in positive ways can only be good for our communities.

Shannon Roberts

Shannon Roberts is co-editor of MercatorNet's blog on population issues, Demography is Destiny. While she has a background as a barrister, writing has been a life-long passion and she has contributed...