With Americans living longer, and experiencing retirements likely to extend over 20 or 30 years, the question comes up: What should people do with the second half of their lives?
Encore.org, a nonprofit organization working to promote second acts for the greater good among those over 50, is seeking to answer that question. Towards that end, the leader in national discussions on the changing face of retirement held a conference in San Francisco this week -- Encore 2013 -- to bring together Jane Pauley and hundreds of the other most passionate leaders of the encore movement from local communities, higher education, business, government, philanthropy, nonprofits and the media.
Marc Freedman, founder and CEO of Encore, points out that 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," he said, noting that the aim is to build a movement designed to make it easier for people to pursue second acts for the greater good.
So what were the big ideas for the encore movement presented at this week's conference? Actually, there were several ideas put forth during one particular session Tuesday afternoon, spilled out using the fast-paced Ignite format -- a format defined as a five-minute long presentation with 20 slides, with each slide advancing every 15 seconds.
Here are just five of those big ideas for moving the encore movement forward.
Dick Goldberg began his encore career as director of Coming of Age after working as a freelance writer for 25 years.
He suggested a dramatic production similar to The Vagina Monologues called "The Encore Monologues" that would showcase the period of time between middle age and old age, its blessed moments and its pitfalls. "It's been done before to get people involved in social movements," he said. "We could have an all-star cast that's ever-changing doing a monologue.
"Who knows where it would lead? Maybe to a blockbuster movie ... the Encore cable channel ... who knows what will happen?"
Mark Bankord began his encore career as founder of The Trajectory Institute and directional leader of the Heartland Community Church after becoming the youngest person in the nation -- in 1980 -- to be licensed as a stockbroker.
He suggested focusing religious communities on the encore movement, noting that 70 percent of boomers claim a faith. "God designed life with two seasons in mind -- the first half and the second half," he said. Right now, the church is focused primarily on the first season of life, but it has an extraordinary capacity to respond to needs of people in their second stage of life, he added. "Identify church leaders ... and connect Encore with the faith-based community," he said.
Deborah Banda is in charge of workplaces issues at AARP.
She said AARP has just launched a website called Work Reimagined with a goal of helping people find their second acts. The site, launched seven months ago, is a talent exchange already utilized by 6,094 members as well as 170 companies. "Work Reimagined is attracting the people we want to attract ... those with 20-plus years of experience," she said. "The encore career movement must make a better case to businesses that those over 50 should be on the same playing field as those under 50."
Joe James pursued several passions before creating the Corporation For Economic Opportunity.
His idea? That people be allowed to invest their own money in their own businesses. "Older Americans have experience, talent and retirement funds," he said. "Should we be forced to invest our retirement accounts on Wall Street?" If older Americans weren't penalized for putting money in their own businesses, $460 billion in new investment would be made available for small businesses. "And let our earnings and principal from businesses accumulate in our retirement accounts tax-free," he said.
Jan Hively co-founded Shift as a clearinghouse for ideas, programs and people seeking more satisfaction from work in 2007, at the age of 75.
She said that, at 81, she wants to share her knowledge -- and believes others should do the same. As such, she's created an international network of older adult leaders called Pass It On designed to spread innovative programs that support news of positive, productive aging. "We need a global exchange with information about replicable programs," she said. "We need pathways so that people can find meaningful work, both paid and unpaid."