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“What’s your encore?”

I hope this conversation will soon be occurring around every water cooler and dinner table in America!

Millions are already in the midst of inventing a new stage of life and work – the encore years – between the end of midlife and anything resembling old-fashioned retirement. We’re envisioning this chapter as a time when we make some of our most important contributions, for ourselves, for our world, for the well-being of future generations.

By Harry J. Getzov

"You live through something like the Great Depression, in an area like the Dust Bowl, it's gonna affect the way you view the world," North Kansas City's Roy "Mac" McCormack once explained to me. Mac was 102 at the time, by the way. "And when you have nothing – I mean absolutely nothing – lemme tell you," he continued, "you have to work. And I mean work hard," he added, smiling.

Years ago, Purpose Prize winner Arlene Blum helped ban toxic chemicals once commonplace in children’s pajamas. Now, as The New York Times Magazine highlights, Blum is targeting a potentially dangerous product we all use: the couch.
 

Kerry Hannon knows careers.

A longtime journalist who has talked to hundreds of people in career transitions, she has regular columns on Forbes.com, AARP Jobs and NextAvenue.org, a PBS website.

By Richard Eisenberg

Many of us in our 50s and 60s have The Itch.

A new national survey sponsored by Encore.org and Participant Media, the entertainment company responsible for such socially relevant films as An Inconvenient Truth, Food, Inc., and Waiting for Superman, finds that people 50 and older are indeed interested in helping younger generations, despite the oft-repeated claims that competition over jobs is pushing younger and older workers into a zero-sum game.

John Fugazzie won $5,000 to help people find work through support groups. Charlene Turner Johnson won $5,000 to start turning abandoned houses into homes for homeless veterans and families. Deborah Greymoon won $5,000 to save women's lives through safer childbirth in the developing world.

As the aging population grows, so does the demand for health care workers. The federal government predicts that the health care industry is on track to add 3.2 million jobs between 2008 and 2018 – a 22 percent increase. And health care reform will potentially boost that number dramatically.

Caregiving – which can take various forms, requiring different levels of expertise – is among the most in-demand prospects in health care today. And with so much potential to help others, it makes a great encore career.

Whenever I speak about the growing interest in encore careers, people ask how they can get started on finding their encores. They want practical steps that can help them move into a new kind of work that blends making a living with making a difference.

Besides our website, Encore.org, there’s another great place to begin: The Encore Career Handbook.

A determined woman with a gentle laugh that makes her green eyes shine, Renee Rhiner is about to set off on a journey of discovery.

For 24 years, most of her adult life, Renee oversaw costly and complex construction projects for Intel Corporation. On July 2, 2012, she retired. With a mixture of excitement and trepidation, she took an audacious step by leaving Intel’s exacting, but comforting, embrace and is preparing to work as an Encore Fellow with Friends of the Children, a Portland, Oregon non-profit that provides long-term mentoring to at-risk children.

Whatever your political leanings, you’re probably concerned about jobs this election season.

Tune in online Wednesday, 1:30 p.m. Eastern, to HuffPost Live, as Encore.org founder and CEO Marc Freedman joins some big names in Tampa., Fla., during the Republican National Convention to talk about solving the unemployment crisis.

Freedman’s fellow panelists are:

By Philip Lilienthal

A native New Yorker, I got my first major dose of education as a camper at my father’s summer camp in Maine, and my second as a Peace Corps volunteer in Africa. Both experiences have played a part in my encore career, using the intervention of camp to help African children understand the dangers of HIV/AIDS.

By Chris and Nancy Jennison

We’ve always loved writing. And when we left our full-time jobs, we knew we could use our experience as writers to help teach kids. But we needed just a little retooling to shift our focus.

We had changed our lives dramatically in the late 2000s. Nancy retired from her position as literacy staff developer for a northern New Jersey school district. We returned to the Boston area, and Chris cut back his hours as an education book publisher, retiring in 2010. Though we considered ourselves retired, we were really searching for our encores.

In 2000, a young man was shot and killed outside Karen Blessen’s home in Dallas. This senseless murder motivated Blessen, a Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic designer, to found 29 Pieces, a nonprofit that uses art to spur social change through its program MasterPEACE: Young Artists Making a Kinder World.

By Lisa Holton

Career consultants often urge 50-somethings to head back to college so they can learn skills that will make them stronger job candidates, especially in the current economy, with the unemployment rate for Americans 55-and-up a steep 6.2 percent.

Editor's note: This piece originally appeared on Idealist.org.

By Marci Alboher

"Having it all" is probably the most misunderstood phrase since, as the late great Erma Bombeck once said about the Equal Rights Amendment, "one size fits all." It has come up whenever there is a backlash – and there have been many – against the increasing empowerment of women. The implication that the women's movement promised or even endorsed that greedy notion is still with us.

When she was 56, Ellen Kamp’s husband died of a massive heart attack. The one person who was able to provide her with the support she needed was herself a widow.

We at Encore.org often hear from people who want to embark on encore careers that serve the greater good, but they just don’t know where to begin.

In addition to the resources on our website, there’s a new service from the creator of VocationVacations that may be of help. PivotPlanet provides individualized advice from experts in a variety of encore-friendly fields.

I’ve often said that we need a new kind of education suited to the new, encore stage of life. And I’m pleased to report that higher education is beginning to move to meet the needs of tens of millions of boomers who want to prepare for encore careers.