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A Look Back … And a Look Ahead

A Look Back … And a Look Ahead

Thanks to you, 2018 has been a record-shattering year for Boomers Leading Change. More people than ever are joining this exciting movement to put the talent and experience of older adults to work for social good.

With your help, here are just a few of the great things we’ve accomplished:
• More than 600 people came through our door to get involved.

• We have nearly 120 active volunteers serving and more than 40 nonprofit partners, nearly double the number of volunteers from just one year ago.

• We launched Year 8 of our AmeriCorps Encore program with 22 AmeriCorps members helping to improve access to health care, alleviate hunger, and help older people remain independent.

• More people than ever have attended the Colorado Encore Network to explore ways to re-energize their careers and their lives—and to learn new ways to talk about aging and ageism.

• More people than ever have attended the Action Academy to learn about–and get involved in— critical issues such as health care policy, the environment, immigration and many other timely concerns.

• We’ve partnered with Changing the Narrative Colorado to change how we all talk and think about aging and ageism.

• And, as the year drew to a close, we learned that our Health Navigator training program is the second such program in the state to be fully recognized by the Colorado Department of Health and the Environment for teaching with the skills required in this emerging career path.

What lies ahead in 2019? Well, we have big plans, and we anticipate a few surprises.

• We will be laying the groundwork for older adults to get involved in intergenerational programs, specifically with young children and their families.

• We will be offering more opportunities for older adults to re-tool their careers and find encore employment.

• Look for news about a new, high-impact service program designed for and by encore adults.

• We will be exploring ways to partner with businesses, nonprofits, and state and local government to solidify our financial foundation so we can keep growing.

A special thanks to our generous and hard-working board members: Roy Alexander, Karen Newman, Barbara Reed, Liz Ullman and Barbara Yondorf.

Finally, none of what we do would be possible without the encouragement and support of our 2018 funders: Anschutz Family Foundation, the Buell Foundation, The Denver Foundation (Merle Chambers Fund), Gary Community Investments, The Jay and Rose Phillips Family Foundation of Colorado, Rose Community Foundation, Serve Colorado (AmeriCorps), and Telligen Community Initiative.

Please help support our continued success in 2019 by making a donation here. We promise to transform your gift into lasting impact.

Thank you for all you do to make our world a better place.

Phil Nash
Executive Director

The New 50s: Far From Retirement

The New 50s: Far From Retirement

 

 

Chip Conley: author of “Wisdom at Work”

After Chip Conley sold Joie de Vivre, the boutique hotel company he created and ran for about 24 years, his life took an unexpected turn. At 52, he was sought out by Brian Chesky, the then-31-year-old chief executive of Airbnb, for advice on how to turn the fledgling home-sharing start-up into a major player in the hospitality field.

For the next four years, Mr. Conley worked at Airbnb, toggling between being a mentor and an intern in a sometimes baffling new role — a “modern elder,” as he put it. As a veteran hospitality executive, he was used to being the “sage on the stage.” But as a newbie in the tech sector, he was often the oldest person in the room, learning from colleagues who were young enough to be his children.

 

I think Mr. Conley’s on to something. It used to be, 50 was a time to begin thinking about retirement. But today, many people in their 50s — myself included — plan to work two or even three more decades. To become modern elders, we have to find new ways to stay relevant and keep our minds open, skills fresh and humility intact.

While I’m determined to become a modern elder, I know it won’t be easy. After all, most of us won’t be getting a phone call from a tech chief executive seeking our counsel. So I started looking for approachable role models I could learn from, and I found plenty.

 

 

Sharon Lewis, an independent consultant on consumer habits, was doing scouting work for the cultural forecasting firm sparks & honey when she heard about the company’s new cultural apprentice program. The apprenticeship was designed to bring together millennials and people with 30 years of professional experience to work on, among other things, a report on the future of work. Ms. Lewis decided to sign up for the 16-week program, which offered only a modest stipend, as a 60th birthday present to herself.

 

“The idea of working around so many younger people was exciting and invigorating,” she said. “I feel wiser, more well-rounded and updated, and I’m almost in withdrawal now,” she said. She especially appreciated the mutual mentoring. “We’re just not competing with one another because we’re at different life stages.”

Kevin Walker, 55, made several big changes after being laid off from a 24-year career in utilities in New York. He moved to Denver and started TurtleWise, a technology platform matching people seeking answers to life and career questions with mentors willing to provide advice.

 

Mr. Walker met Kevin Freund, 31, at a conference hosted by Mentor Colorado. The two are passionate about the role of mentors and brainstormed ways to build Mr. Walker’s company.

“Being around Kevin is analogous to the kind of mentoring we’re doing with the platform,” Mr. Freund said. “I get little bits of wisdom dripped on me.” Within six months of their first meeting, Mr. Walker asked Mr. Freund to join the company as chief operating officer.

Charlotte Japp, 28, started Cirkel to bring older and younger workers together for networking.
Photo Credit: Gabriella Angotti-Jones

Shortly after that, Mr. Walker had to return to a full-time job to bolster his finances so he turned over the daily management of the company to Mr. Freund. Mr. Walker says he is still totally committed to the ideals that led him to start the company and remains only a phone call or video chat away should his younger friend need his counsel.

But with two young children at home, Mr. Walker has turned the company into a “side hustle,” something he said he learned from millennials. The two stay in close touch now that Mr. Walker lives in Los Angeles and Mr. Freund is still in Denver.

 

Kimberly Strong, 52, kick-started a career pivot by giving back. After retiring as head of diversity and inclusion at Target in 2016, she wanted to become an angel investor, supporting women-led initiatives and serving as a mentor to younger women, especially women of color. She discovered Pipeline Angels, which offers boot camps for people interested in supporting ventures led by women and non-binary femmes, and she joined one of their cohorts this summer.

 

Ms. Strong says the program has provided speaking opportunities, judging roles at pitch summits, and the chance to hone her investing skills.

“My end game is to eventually be on a Fortune 1000 corporate board, and Pipeline gave me the opportunity to serve on start-up boards and gain experience,” she said. And she’s been able to mentor young female founders. “Basically, I’m the auntie to the start-ups,” she said, and the beneficiary of “reverse mentoring.”

 

Despite these promising stories, I hear a lot from people over 50, even over 45, who are doing all the right things but still not finding successful midlife transitions. Ageism is rampant — and internalized, with midlifers questioning our own ability to succeed in a world where youth is prized. And while there are many new offerings to help people make late-career transitions, moving into an encore career still requires an immense amount of creativity and persistence.

At a Cirkel event, attendees play a game in which people from different age groups engage in cross-generational conversation and networking. Credit–Kyla Rae Polanco

 

I have learned two things from my interviews about making these transitions easier. First, and most obviously, it helps to have a financial safety net. So volunteering or refreshing skills while still employed, collecting severance or a pension, or having a partner who provides an income or health insurance, all make a big difference. It is far more daunting without that kind of cushion.

Second, the attitudes of younger colleagues are just as important as our own when we think about finding new roles in a rapidly transforming workplace. Shortly after reading Mr. Conley’s book, I met Charlotte Japp, a 28-year-old with an infectious passion for bringing older and younger people together.

 

Ms. Japp was so desperate for older mentors in her first job at Vice Media that she started an intergenerational networking event series called Cirkel. “My colleagues and I had this joke about what would happen to us when we turned 34, because Vice’s target market was 18 to 34,” she told me, adding that “no one in the office, not even my bosses’ bosses, was over 40.”

This struck Ms. Japp in a personal way given that both of her parents lost their jobs when they were about 50. Her father’s experience as the sole breadwinner in the family at the time is particularly etched in her memory.

 

Over an extensive text strand, Ms. Japp explained the philosophy behind Cirkel. She told me there were many times she wanted advice on how to do something — from technical things like how to put a video treatment together, to “political maneuvering like how to confront a manager about a difficult situation with a colleague.” She just needed someone older and more experienced to ask.

 

The word Cirkel comes from the Swedish for circle. “I believe Sweden is the culture behind great design,” she said. “Instead of minimalist furniture, though, I’m using it to describe good design in the culture and society.”

 

Ms. Japp got right to the heart of one of the main points Mr. Conley makes in his book. At a time when we can Google the answer to just about anything, it’s important to remember that some things come only through lived experience. And there’s a certain magic when older and younger learn from, and with, each other.

Marci Alboher is VP of strategic communications at Encore.org.
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