Those of us born after the Second World War came of age at an amazing time -- an era full of hope, a time of endless possibility, an age when we thought we could change the world.
In recent years, attacking boomers for what we haven't done has become a popular blood sport. I find this disturbing (and wearying) for two reasons. First, it's inaccurate. This generation pushed to end an unjust war, opened doors for women, gays and people of colour and helped launch the environmental movment. All these things, as well as access to birth control and holistic medicine, along with freedom of religious choice, characterize the boomer mindset. Second, the blame game is dreadfully demoralizing. Why would boomers try anything new when we know we're likely to be voted off the island by young people who want our jobs? The fact is that there's room for all of us. And it seems incredibly foolish to be dismissing us just as the world faces its greatest challenges. If there ever was a time for "all hands on deck," this is it.
I wrote "RIPE," my new book, when I noticed a discrepancy between my experience and the ubiquitous messages about what it is supposedly like to be 50 and older. The same observation applies here. Let's ignore all that noise and focus on something positive, constructive and hopeful instead. It's time to rekindle the embers that burn deep inside of us, to come full circle in our lives. As baby boomers, our greatest achievement will not only be what we do as individuals (how we "ripen") but what we've always done best as a generation: redefine the boundaries of the possible.
First comes the shift: "Aha! It's not the end of the road at all, but a new beginning!" What comes next? Our personal journeys, combined with thinking together about how we might remake this phase of life. What if we were to create a world in which there were no time limit on individual achievement, where everyone was encouraged to develop and share their unique gifts with others?
Let's start by recognizing the abundance of resources. As consultant John Elkington notes in "RIPE," "There is a great reservoir of experience in our aging population and we've got to work out how to tap into that." Let's look closely at the value of these contributors, and how best to deploy them. What, precisely, does this generation have to offer at this stage of life? What are employers and customers looking for that ripened men and women are best able to deliver? And what are the roles for which we are ideally suited?
Then, let's create a system that encourages older workers to learn, grow and contribute. Let's rethink the entire culture so that it honours and embraces its most mature (and maybe even wisest) members. And let's create a vernacular. We need words to describe this phase of our lives, an idiom that captures the spirit of what it means to be 50, 65 or 80 today (and, yes, "ripe" is one such word).
And recognition -- please, lots of recongnition. There are many awards and programs that honour young achievers. Let's see major sponsors step forward and shine a spotlight on Ripe pioneers. "Top 50 Over 50" would be a good start.
Are you over 50 and ripe for change? Are you feeling at the top of your game? Are you finding that the world wants you to go away? What would you do to create a world in which everyone -- regardless of age -- has an opportunity to learn, grow and contribute? Share your story with us below or feel free to email me via my website.
And while you're at it, have some fun with the delightful contest from Encore Careers. Can you tell your life story in six words? Try it and win! (And do share with us, too!)
"RIPE" is here! This spring, I'm writing about "RIPE: Rich, Rewarding Work After 50," a 12-week course on discovering passion, purpose and possibility at midlife. Check out the video (a.k.a. book trailer!):
Be part of the "RIPE" community on HuffPost, Facebook and Twitter. Together, we are going to change this phase of life!
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