About a senior gap year and the longevity paradox.
I would love to take a senior gap year, right now, as I move from full employment to the next stage of my life that could well be 20 to 30 years. I would love the opportunity to explore new avenues, try new things and experiment with how I could turn my passion into purpose and earn some money at the same time.
Marc Freedman, CEO of Encore.org suggested that the senior gap year became an accepted norm as part of the manifold adjustments society urgently needs to make to respond appropriately to the realities of the longevity revolution. He was making the keynote address at the opening the 7th International Positive Aging Conference hosted by the Institute for the Ages in Sarasota, Florida.
He told a packed audience from all walks of life and from 8 countries that it was time to look aging squarely in the face and put a stop to the paradox we are currently living out; celebrating longevity while seeing little value in growing old.
The magnitude and momentum of the societal changes that the demographic transition is bringing about have only one precedent in history and that was the era when women entered the work market and started performing new roles.
Marc said it was time to change our perspective, time to stop chasing youth. “We rerouted the river of life”, he said, and created a confusion of identity. We keep saying 60 is the new 40, but in fact, it isn’t. The road does come to an end.
It is time to be 60 at 60, but to be a new 60 generating good for society and living through a full and meaningful cycle, while creating and living our legacy. He recalled a phrase that’s stayed with him throughout his 30 years’ involvement in aging and purpose. It came from Aggie, a very senior member of a foster grandparent program, “It’s not the job, it’s the joy that keeps me going”.
We need social innovation that will go much further than villages for seniors. He felt we’d reached the tipping point.
Already 9 million people in the USA had started encore careers, finding passion, purpose and a pay check, in the second halves of their lives and a further 21 million were contemplating doing so.
He shared three ideas for fast-forwarding this movement:
A gap year
It was time introduce a gap year for seniors to prepare the next 20 – 30 years of their lives. People need to experiment, to “try before they buy”. Encore.org has set the pace by introducing grants of 25 000 $ a year for fellows working half time for non-profit organizations. Slowly, big corporations were catching on and starting to offer this as a possibility for their senior staff. More human resource people needed to work on this.
We are wholly unprepared for this phase of life and it takes heroic individual effort to navigate it. Instead wouldn’t it be better if the education system offered an additional layer aimed specifically at preparing and fitting 50/60 years olds to start a new chapter in their lives that will benefit themselves and their communities.
Government needed to devise new policies to support this innovation and allow more flexibility especially with regard to social security.
Identity is a big question. What is sorely needed is a name to identify this new stage life. The Pass It On Network invites you to think about it and post your suggestions. Marc shared a suggestion he received – the “PIP Squad” (Previously Important People). What can you come up with? All suggestions will be sent through to Encore.org.