|Im Ja P. Choi , Penn Asian Senior Services|
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Penn Asian Senior Services
Purpose Prize Fellow 2012
Im Ja P. Choi at times felt helpless as her 85-year-old mother lay in a Philadelphia hospital bed recovering from three surgeries for stomach cancer. She watched in frustration as the nurses tried to communicate with her Korean mother in English. “They said, ‘roll over.’ She didn’t understand ‘roll over,’ so the nurses had to push her,” Choi recalls of that 2002 hospital stay.
The notion of encore careers (the term was made popular by Marc Freedman, head of Civic Ventures / Encore.org) has been percolating now for some time. But several factors today are prompting more people to pursue such jobs: undersize nest eggs, increased longevity, a desire to tackle society's ills and, in many cases, an urge to find a different kind of life.
Boaz and Ruth in Richmond, Va., has restored abandoned buildings and homes, generated employment opportunities and changed lives. The neighborhood has seen crime rates drop by 61 percent since the organization's arrival a decade ago. "Eighty percent of the buildings here were boarded up," says founder Martha Rollins, a 2006 Purpose Prize winner. "We're trying to fill the emptiness."
Experience Matters' centerpiece program is Encore Fellowships, placing highly skilled executive retirees in half-time positions for a year (a $20,000 stipend underlines that it's a serious commitment). Fellows' accomplishments range from strengthening a museum's finances to developing a long-range plan to make senior centers more efficient and effective. (This story also appeared in USA Today.)
Analysts predict a groundswell of opportunity for those who find themselves working past 65. "Our research confirms that there's an interest in doing work that has social significance, offers a degree of flexibility for work-life balance, that leverages and values experience and that offers the level of income needed for financial sustainability," says Phyllis Segal, vice president at Civic Ventures.
In what might be a surprising trend, a Kauffman Foundation report notes that boomers make up a rising share of entrepreneurs.That's not surprising to Detroit-based Purpose Prize winner Randal Charlton. He says said the trend is being driven by people living longer and boomers' genuine interest in civic ventures.
The recession's toll on jobs and retirement savings has kept a lid on the number of people transitioning to socially conscious careers in the second half of life. To make such moves more financially feasible, Civic Ventures supports midlife internships and encore fellowship programs, including a new initiative by Intel. The group also has also started the annual Purpose Prizes, $100,000 awards to five people over 60 who devote their encore careers to social causes.
Experience Matters' centerpiece program is Encore Fellowships, placing highly skilled executive retirees in half-time positions for a year (a $20,000 stipend underlines that it's a serious commitment). Fellows' accomplishments range from strengthening a museum's finances to developing a long-range plan to make senior centers more efficient and effective. (This story also appeared in The Arizona Republic.)
The recent recession has forced boomers to stay employed an average of 2.1 years longer than they planned on before the downturn. Civic Ventures and MetLife Foundation says that around 31 million workers ages 44 to 70 are in the transition between midlife careers and more meaningful jobs, but these people may find themselves struggling financially.
What is an encore career? That’s the new buzz phrase being used for people reaching the midpoint of their lives who no longer want to be just “doing a job.” They want a job or career that has more meaning for them.