Meet Arlene Blum (http://www.purposeprize.org/finalists/candidatepage.cfm?candidateid=3527) a scientist and mountain climber who is scaling new terrain. At 61, she returned to work in science policy and started the Green Science Policy Institute. She persuaded California regulators to reduce toxic fire-retardant chemicals in furniture and children's products. An amazing motivator, Arlene has successfully brought government, industry, non profits and scientists together on this project.
Meet H. Eugene Jones who started his encore career at 84 with a background of helping faltering businesses. He created an arts program in Arizona schools to enrich their experience in movement, sound and expression and to also substantially enrich their learning academically and creatively.
Meet Richard Ladner a son of deaf parents with a 35 year career teaching theory based computer science at the university level. He has transformed the lives of disabled people with accessible technology to facilitate and better lives of those who are deaf or blind.
Meet Michele McRae a retired language professor in North Dakota who has provided refugees with the necessary tools and information to ease their assimilation in the community. She involved older adults as tutors for new Americans and it became a 500 person volunteer operation.
These are just a few of the recognized individuals who have been awarded The Purpose Prize/Fellow for establishing their social entrepreneurship in a critical area of need during their retirement years. “They are living proof that aging does not equal stagnation and decline, that later life is a time of innovation, productivity, and creativity as rich as the younger years” is a statement provided by Civic Ventures which initiated The Purpose Prize. They have commitment, purpose, dedication and a creative passion that is newly unleashed from years of more traditional positions.
Jobs consume more than one third of our waking hours, approximately another third is used with sleep and the balance is a mosaic of personal needs. So working is (was) a huge part of our lives and should be rewarding beyond financial compensation. Yet many remain unsatisfied. They feel compelled to hold on to their jobs despite negative indicators because they are fearful of the economic consequences of changing lanes. No doubt that the economy has perpetuated this frozen mentality as well as family responsibilities that eschews risk. But opportunity is just steps away. The old adage of “when on door closes, another opens” is based on real experience.
Yet many have jumped from their professional icebergs (due to layoff or retirement) to capture a renewed sense of excitement and purpose. It is a valuable time to reinvent oneself; to reflect on experience, skills, talent and, very important, to introspectively search for passion and purpose. For those who are unsure which mission to master or are not ready to retire, volunteerism can offer an important bridge to your encore career. It is an opportunity to explore different types of organizations and challenges within your community and find a road that is waiting to be paved. It’s a definite trend. For people over 50, there has been an increase of almost 50% in applications to the Peace Corps and President Barack Obama, an ardent community activist, has encouraged all Americans to engage in volunteerism.
Temple University’s Coming of Age has been promoting civic involvement for baby boomers in Greater Philadelphia. A partnership of The Temple University Center for Intergenerational Learning, WHYY Wider Horizons, AARP Pennsylvania, and United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania., they are helping to launch the same grassroots organizations across the country. Dick Goldberg, Executive Director, says “As I go around the country working with communities to help them start their own Coming of Age initiatives, I’m learning more and more about how people 50+ see their future-- and the lives they plan or are already living that include learning and connecting and contributing to the community”. With helpful website resources, you can search their database for volunteer positions based on area of interest and location and sign up for their weekly Inspiring Opportunities newsletter .
Whatever your situation is today, there is a need for your support in local organizations and opportunities to build new ones. Some people who have had to reduce or forgo their checks to charities are supplementing or substituting annual donations with volunteer time. It’s a creative solution to a personal commitment, an approach to produce meaning behind a languishing budget. Giving is an integral part of positively relating in society and feeling optimistic about empowering change. When we make a difference in people’s lives, our own lives are enriched and changed forever.
An excerpt from a poem by Longfellow, titled Morituri Salutamus:
“For age is opportunity, no less
Than Youth itself, though in another dress,
And as the evening twilight fades away
The sky is filled with stars, invisible by day.”