How Old is Too Old for “Good Work”?

How Old is Too Old for “Good Work”?

Last week the MetLife Foundation and Civic Ventures released the results of their joint 2008 Encore Career Survey. The study had a laudable goal–to determine how many who might otherwise opt for traditional retirement are instead choosing “encore careers”–positions longer on meaning but shorter on prestige, perks, and pay.

The good news is that somewhere between six and ten percent of those 44 to 70 are doing that “good work” as Marc Freedman, Founder and CEO of Civic Ventures calls it. The even better news is that based on what those still in the traditional workforce indicated, these ranks may swell substantially soon. According to an essay by Freedman and Phyllis Segal, VP of Civic Ventures, at the beginning of the report, if the 5% of the baby boom who say they are interested went into encore careers that lasted ten years, the result would be 40 MILLION YEARS of human talent brought to bear on world problems.

Pretty impressive!

But who decided that all this was going to end at 70? Stories abound of people who are both doing “good work” and having great fun far after they hit that impressive 75. They need opportunities to contribute their talents as well. We’ve just pushed the age barrier farther out by setting an upper limit in the study. Not good.

The news from Encore Study is exciting to put it mildly. But there is even more to celebrate as we find ways to keep EVERYONE WHO WANTS TO engaged–in “good work,” in their communities, in SOME kind of meaningful endeavor. We are in the early stages of a massive change in lifestyle phases. The idea that anyone over 60–well, now 70–is tired, worn out, and needs to rest is giving way (slowly) to new opportunities to make a difference and to honor what’s individually important.

But as we move in that direction, we lose if we just push the age barrier a little farther out. We need to get rid of it. Period. Before mandatory retirement and company pensions, people remained useful as members of the community virtually until the end of their lives. If every person who wants to can work at what they believe in for as long as they live, the result will be far more profound than even the numbers Freedman and Segal suggest. Plus health care costs will go down. So let’s take this all the way–no upper limit to how long it works to work!

Encore, a part of Civic Ventures, offers a very impressive array of information about encore careers.

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