Category Archives: Retirement Jobs

The New Senior Moment

You know the comedy routine: a ‘senior citizen’ tears the house apart looking for his reading glasses only to find them, perched on top of his head. It’s been called a ‘senior moment,’ but it’s only funny if you find stereotypes about the aging brain humorous. Well, Gene Cohen, M.D., Ph.D., the first Director of the Center on Aging, Health & Humanities at George Washington University, has news for us on the other side of 50: it ain’t necessarily so. The brain is far more malleable than has been supposed.

In his back-to-back addresses to the Life Planning Network pre-conference and the First Annual Positive Aging Conference, held December 5-8 at Eckerd College, St. Petersburg, Florida, Dr. Cohen mixed cutting edge evidence about brain regeneration (there’s more to the line, use it or lose it than you might think) with flashes of wit. Creativity and practical intelligence actually increase with age, Cohen told some 200 professionals including life planners, life coaches, career counselors, social workers and psychotherapists — most of them 50 or better and eager to serve clients in the age cohort.

As an example of a new kind of ‘senior moment,’ he told a story about his own parents. Visiting Cohen and his wife one winter, the elder Cohens found themselves marooned in an unfamiliar part of the city by a snow storm, with nary a taxi in sight. The solution: they ordered a pizza ‘to go,’ and had themselves delivered to their son’s address with it.

“It’s not at all about denying the very real problems associated with aging,” Cohen said. “It’s all about not denying th very real potential associated with aging. Any program that doesn’t consider both [the problem and the potential], is not state of the art.”

The fact is, the brain — once thought to have all the neurons it could — can continue to regenerate and experience can actually have an impact on brain structure. We have, Cohen said, “a built-in inner push [which is] an evolutionary component of aging. Furthermore, it never leaves us.” Midlife can and should be more than a ‘crisis.’ For many it is a flowering of creativity coupled with a feisty sense of self that manifests in ‘second acts,’ ‘encore careers,’ and a strong desire to make a positive impact on society.

For more on the conference, visit Positive Aging Conference

Here’s a report that rebuts the notion that aging and disability go hand in hand.

Here’s how to keep your brain sharp so you can give ‘senior moment’ a whole new meaning.

Encore Careers

Marc Freedman is one of our heroes. In the midst of sound and fury about the boomers, his is a steady, reassuring voice of hope and reason. In his new book, Encore: Finding Work That Matters in the Second Half of Life, Freedman wastes no time in painting two starkly contrasting visions of the future. In one, boomers — ‘greedy geezers’ — on an endless, subsidized vacation, have sabotaged the economy, tipping the nation into decline. In the other, ‘boomer labor power’ fueled by Encore Careers — what he calls ‘purpose-driven jobs’ — makes life more meaningful, fulfilling and financially sustainable, not only for boomers themselves, but for generations to come.

Freedman, 49, founder and ceo of Civic Ventures, a think tank and incubator dedicated to “generating ideas and inventing programs to achieve the greatest return on experience,” shies away from the emphasis on voluntarism that characterized his earlier book, Prime Time: How the Baby Boomers Will Revolutionize Retirement and Transform America. He believes that, given the right policy decisions and bold new initiatives to address the ‘experience dividend,’ millions of boomers will make a virtue of the necessity to generate an income later in life, and enter into a new phase of work that may be shorter in duration, but ‘weight more’ in impact.

What is needed, he writes, is a new social contract with older people that directs them not toward the outdated ‘freedom from work’ of an earlier generation and time, but ‘freedom to work.’ To illustrate, five ‘Encore Pioneers’ tell their stories and show what is possible when you don’t accept the status quo. Former car salesman, Robert Chambers, now provides low-interest loans and fuel-efficient cars to the rural pool in New Hampshire. After thirty years as a truant officer, Jacqueline Kahn began to train in her early fifties for her new career as a critical care nurse (see her featured in Time Magazine).

“In choosing work that is aimed at making a better world, these leading-edge baby boomers are challenging the definition of success for all Americans,” writes Marc Freedman. In the future he envisions, these examples of Encore Careers will be commonplace and the dire forecasts of those who saw inevitable social collapse caused by an aging society, will seem as absurd as Y2K.

Read this book and light your own fire. The Appendix, Your Encore, is packed with resources to help you find your way and keep the flame burning.  And there is an Encore website.  “The future is calling,” Freedman concludes. “What are we waiting for?”

Leaving Life to Chance? Don’t!

In her New York Times article, Training to be Old, Claudia Deutsch interviews experts on the subject of how well, or badly, many of us are preparing for a span of years roughly equivalent to those spent building family and career. Here’s a comment that is worth your attention: “With the first wave of baby boomers already in their 60s, gerontologists are bracing for a tsunami of disgruntled postretirees who have left the psychic and physical aspects of aging to chance.”

If this describes you, don’t panic. Help with transition is available, although given the numbers — 78 million baby boomers alone — we have a long way to go to meet the need. Programs are beginning to turn up at local JCCs, YM/Ws and other social services groups. Look for a Next Chapter group or Transition Network (for women 50+) in your area. A lot of authors are jumping on the later life advice bandwagon. That’s not a bad place to start your inquiry.

You can expect financial planners to continue to focus on what they are trained to do — help you to manage your tangible assets so they will last as long as you do. But many have begun to adopt and train for a more comprehensive approach, perhaps because clients are demanding it. In our neck of the woods, 2young2retire has already certified one financial planner to facilitate the 2young2retire course and another is currently enrolled in the training. Facilitator Training is open only to people who have professional credentials, e.g. life/career/transition coaches, career counselors, social workers.

The 2young2retire course itself is a good model for what is possible. It asks a six (or eight) week commitment from participants to inquire into the important issues we’ll all face in a longer life span: staying healthy, smarter money management, ‘encore’ careers, entrepreneurial opportunities, community service, and intelligent travel. You reflect, you explore, you plan, you write down your plans. Good things happen.

Hungry for a ‘purpose-driven job’ in the second half of life? The MetLife Foundation/Civic Ventures Community College Encore Career Grants of $25,000 are designed to encourage community colleges to develop programs that help boomers transition into encore careers in healthcare, education and the social services where the jobs are many and qualified people few. Do good. Do well.

Wanted: English Teachers

An ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher may not have made the Career Journal list of best careers for 2006, but it does supply some of the key ingredients that make these careers desirable.

• Good intellectual stimulation
• Strong job security
• High level of control and freedom in what to do
• Extensive direct contact with customers/clients

Add to this the fact that the demand for ESL teachers has never been higher, with long waiting lists and students applying through a lottery system. We believe ESL is a great ‘retirement’ career that can help you take advantage of the gifts of maturity:

• Strong desire to help and give back
• Diverse life experience
• Excellent people skills, including communications
• Patience, ‘big picture’ thinking

As a native English speaker, you have a skill that is much in demand around the world. If you’re bi-lingual, so much the better. If teaching is something you’re attracted to, you have made peace with the relatively low-salaries ($30K, give or take, for newcomers). The ESL teaching credential also gives you the opportunity to travel to interesting places around the world you might not consider otherwise. More information about training and other facts.

Recareering: It’s the Future

This past weekend, troubled automaker DaimlerChrysler announced restructuring plans that offer incentives to its most experienced workers to leave. A couple of days later, the company made buyout offers to its union workers. The fate of the auto giant isn’t exactly clear, but what is crystal is the human side: a large number of ex-autoworkers who are way too young to retire. Despite everything we know about labor shortages, certain businesses believe they have no choice but to cut jobs in order to remain profitable and people 50 or better usually take the hit. It’s a prime example of short-term thinking.

The truth is, downsizing isn’t the only change agent operating in the workplace. Burn out and discontent with corporate life is fueling the trend to recareer to something more personally fulfilling. Downsized workers with generous buyout packages will swell these numbers. If you happen to be a career counselor, coach or other professional trained in helping people assess their skills and untapped talents (or want to be), that could be good for your career.

It’s only a matter of time before older workers become sought after — according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, by 2012, workers 55 and older will grow to 19.1 percent of the total workforce — and that will make your job a lot easier. In the meantime, how can you best position yourself to serve this potentially large market? How will you connect with these folks and attract them to the services you offer? Here are a few thoughts:

1. The stigma once attached to job-jumping is long gone. Serial careers are the norm, in fact, people who have developed skill-sets across a number of industries will be seen as flexible and adaptable, two traits in demand in a fast-changing work environment.

2. Many people who want to start a new career will head right back to school. Your community college could be the ideal place to offer a course or workshop.

3. Centers that cater to the needs of people 50 and older are offering outplacement services, e.g. Scottsdale Boomerz, a program of Next Chapters. Check out their courses and workshops for ideas.

4. Add certification as a 2young2retire facilitator to your credentials as a coach, social worker or career professional. Learn a process that helps people in the age group get clear about the work they want and how to take steps in making it a reality.

5. Educate yourself on this broad trend. What are the thought leaders in your community saying about recareering? Read the local papers. Check out the chamber of commerce.

The Sabbatical: Not So Academic

The sabbatical is one of those traditions of college teaching that grants a period of time away, usually with full salary, to an individual with the expectation that he or she will spend it doing research, possibly in a different but related field, and thus return refreshed and renewed to the classroom. At the very least, it permits the grantee a way of avoiding burnout. That the sabbatical has never made any serious inroad into the business world is self-evident. Midlife overwork and burnout are two crippling problems that dare not speak their name. Some 70 percent of workers long for time-out that is longer that the usual two-week vacation.

If you are among those who have been downsized or encouraged to take early retirement, or whatever euphemism you’d care to apply to an untimely exit, you might reframe this often traumatic life event in terms of being granted a sabbatical, time-out that you’ve earned.

While you let that sink in, here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • How much time do I want for myself?

  • What has stood in the way of my taking it, beyond the obvious answer that I’ve been working x hours?

  • How much time can I afford to take without an income?

  • What have I not done that I’ve always wanted to do?

  • If I were to die tomorrow, what would I have missed?

  • What would improve my life or the lives of others that I could take on?

  • Who is doing work that I am attracted to?

  • What issues in my town (country, state, country, the world) could benefit from my involvement?

  • What do I envision for myself at the end of a sabbatical?

Six Months Off: How to Plan, Negotiate, and Take the Break You Want Without Going Broke or Burning Bridges, by Hope Dlugozima, James Scott and David Sharp, offers some other good ideas.

Best Places

You’ve had it with shoveling snow, long commutes to work, paying too much in real estate taxes. The grandkids moved to another state. Your elderly parents need your help across the country. One or more of these can trigger questions about relocation as we cross the threshold into the second half of life. As we age, we become a nation in search of the ‘best place’ to live. Suppose you find, as we do, the usual list of location must have’s inadequate. You know, the lists that assume you’ve hung up your spurs as regards making a living: affordable housing; plentiful leisure activities; cultural options; sunny weather; good health care access.

All good, but suppose you want or need an income. Suppose you want to live near your grandchildren or elderly parents in an environment that is business-friendly. While it is true that technology has enabled many of us to work remotely, what if your dream is to become a minister, or open a dog grooming business or launch a practice as a professional organizer, to name three on our Top Ten? Through this lens, we took a look at information that is available for the asking on the web and here are our best picks. Who knows? When you start researching your personal best place, you may find that your own hometown has more going for it than you realized.

Ageism within?

A shortage of workers in the coming decades will be a global phenomenon. In Japan, which has one of the oldest populations, companies are being given incentives by the government to extend retirement age to 70. Last fall, we attended a presentation of the AARP/Towers Perrin report The Business Case for Workers Age 50+: Planning for Tomorrow’s Talent Needs in Today’s Competitive Environment. As negative stereotypes begin to erode, says the report, older workers will be sought after for their “experience, loyalty, perseverance, work habits and emotional maturity.” AARP projects that by by 2010, almost one in three workers in the U.S. will be 50 or older.

It appears that economic necessity could do for older workers what legislation — the Age Discrimination Act of 1967 — has only partly accomplished. Could we be seeing the last of subtle manifestations of age bias, e.g. the contention that executives 50 and older take twice as long to land a new job as their younger colleagues?

We believe so. Yet our optimism took a hit this week when a human resources executive friend suggested that mature workers feel compelled to cut years from their work experience to appear younger because it improves their chances of being hired.

Ageism begins at home. Stamp it out! Here are some useful ideas:

Replacing loss with retirement career

In case you missed it, you’ll want to listen to this short NPR segment from Morning Edition. It tells a story of how an obsession with medical problems took the place of a personal loss, then became a new career opportunity for an 89-year-old widow. Hey, Cool Career #123*, perhaps? It’s sweet, a lesson in creating possibilities, plus, the guitar/fiddle riff at the end is well worth hanging out for.

* For Cool Careers #121 and #122, see Reinventing Retirement. For Cool Careers #1 through #101, you’ll have to read Too Young to Retire: 101 Ways to Start the Rest of Your Life (Plume 2004).

Where’s the beef?

We track news about aging, boomers, retirement, older workers, longevity research and other related issues using Google’s handy alert tool (you can, too. Just click on

As boomers approach 62, the age when they become eligible for Social Security benefits, the trickle of news coverage has turned into a flood. Lately, our inbox has been overflowing with reports lamenting the fact that many people will have to work past 65, because they can’t afford to retire. Whoa! What’s with the hand-wringing?

Now we’re not knocking financial independence whether one arrives at that blessed state via saving, smart investing, solid income, inheritance or living within one’s means (perhaps the most overlooked option). The sooner the better, in our book. But we do take issue with this assumption that people work only because they have to, and that everyone is eager to retire, the earlier the better.

So, let us say this about that.

1. The assumption is false. According to surveys (AARP and others), 7 out of 10 workers plan to continue to work past so-called retirement age, and this is not entirely motivated by economics. If there is any problem here, it is that older workers who want to work are having more difficulty finding jobs commensurate with their skills. (Got your heart set on greeting customers at Walmart, go for it.) But what do older workers want? Oh, pretty much what most folks do: flexibility in their hours, autonomy, opportunities for training, balance. See:

2. The notion that people hate their work just doesn’t hold water in a hard-working culture like ours. What does seem to be epidemic is complaining about work, and that might be a factor of how many more hours people are working, whether through necessity or choice. Working hard, i.e. being always available, is a status symbol. It says “I’m important”, perhaps even indispensable.

3. Being fired or downsized count among the most stressful of life events. This suggests that even work one ‘hates’ is work one would rather have.

4. Chances are, people who are that eager to quit working probably already have. Management expert, Peter Drucker, put it best: “There is an enormous number of managers who have retired on the job.” Now honestly. Would you want them on your payroll?

5. We may be in the minority, but the idea is gaining ground: Work is actually good for you! If you really do hate your job, start looking for something else, preferably while you’re still employed. A career change is a lot healthier than full retirement. But don’t just take our word for it. Here’s a study that appeared in the British Medical Journal:

Seems Malcolm Forbes had a point. “Retirement,” he famously said, “kills more people than hard work ever did.”