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Nonprofit leaders: We want to hear from you.

What are your plans for the future, and what do you need to get there?

We need a new map of life.

We've been making do with one that was fashioned for an expected longevity of threescore and 10. We shouldn't knock that legacy. At one time, that constituted progress.

But we can't stuff a 21st century life span into a life course designed for the 20th century – or stretch the old model so that it accommodates a task well beyond its intended capacity. The story starts with the numbers, but it is really about the nature of lives.

If you're thinking about going back to school, consider this: “For those in midlife and beyond, a college degree appears to slow the brain’s aging process by up to a decade, adding a new twist to the cost-benefit analysis of higher education – for young students as well as those thinking about returning to school.”

So says a recent New York Times article, which makes the case that education in the encore years boosts mental agility.

Boomers are a talented, smart and sometimes driven group. Many care deeply about their communities. New research from Civic Ventures and MetLife Foundation says that 12 million boomers intend upon retirement to use their experience to develop new nonprofit organizations. Boomers' good sense and their motivation can make a better world.

If you’re over 50, chances are that continuing to work – and being truly engaged in what you do – will boost your well-being.

Researchers at the Sloan Center on Aging & Work at Boston College found that people 50 and older are more likely than younger adults to feel more deeply engaged in paid work, volunteering and education.

The decades-long career is in decline. And for many, that’s a good thing.

“Tacking swiftly from job to job and field to field, learning new skills all the while, resembles the pattern that increasingly defines our careers,” writes Anya Kamenetz in Fast Company magazine.

How swiftly?

According to federal statistics, as of 2010, the median number of years U.S. workers had been in their jobs was 4.4 years.

By Tom Allen

Four years ago, I traded in my life for a revised version. After 30 years of practicing law and, more importantly, raising three sons, I decided it was time to do something radically different. So I moved to Rwanda, Africa.

When I am among visitors, sooner or later the question always comes up: What brought you to Rwanda? Sometimes there seems to be a tinge of unspoken suspicion: "What are you running/hiding from?" I don't get defensive, though I suppose that we are all running from or to something. The more important question is, “Do we ever succeed?”

Purpose Prize fellow Andy Harris is finding fulfillment in his encore career. He developed a college course designed to give U.S. medical professionals a chance to provide care in poor countries overseas. It also enables them to provide care locally – in free medical clinics for the uninsured where course participants volunteer one evening per week.

Editor’s note: This essay by Paul Young, president and CEO of the National AfterSchool Association, originally appeared on a National AfterSchool Association blog.

Looking for meaningful gifts? Treat your friends and family to some interesting reading about the second half of life -- the encore stage -- and social change.

Check out these books:


In his book – The Big Shift – Encore.org founder and CEO Marc Freedman
argues that though we’re getting older, most of us are not getting old … at least not yet.
About the Big ShiftAbout Marc Freedman