One 52-year-old real-estate insurance agent switched careers after 20 years and went to work on affordable housing. A 50-something truant officer took up emergency-care nursing as a second career. And a retirement-age corporate executive left to work in the trenches to help the homeless.
Those are examples of midlifers who weren't ready for a rocking-chair or golf-course retirement. As the huge wave of baby boomers ages, their types should become the rule rather than the exception, both for the benefit of the seniors and for society overall. Older Americans are clamoring to stay active in more meaningful ways - and the work force needs their talent, expertise and commitment.
Marc Freedman, a national scholar on aging, beautifully makes the case for matching older people with opportunities for meaningful work. His new book, "Encore: Finding Work that Matters in the Second Half of Life," profiles people who made major job changes and found more fulfilling, productive lives.
Freedman persuasively argues that later years can offer freedom to work in more flexible, meaningful ways, rather than only a time to be free from work. That approach can help fill predicted worker shortages in a range of areas and give opportunities for more seniors to "give back" in education, social services, health care and other helping professions.
Truth is, Americans are living and working longer than ever. Some work because they feel they must, given the high cost of everything from health care to housing. But their work need not be drudgery if people consider ways to best match their skills, interests and passions with what needs doing in society.
- Star Tribune (Minneapolis)