BIG IDEAS FROM THE 7th ANNUAL INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON AGING

RETIREMENT COACHING – DEBBIE DRINKARD GROVUM– I am still feeling the excitement and energy generated by the 7th Annual International Conference on Positive Aging: The Voices of Innovation and Community, hosted by the Institute for the Ages on February 9-12, 2014, in Sarasota, Florida.  More than 350 people from the United States and eight other countries convened to share information and learn from each other about the latest trends in positive aging.

Marc Freedman, Founder and CEO of Encore.org, opened the conference by encouraging the audience to see the “second half of life as a platform for harnessing life’s experiences to accomplish something truly remarkable.”  With 10,000 baby boomers joining the ranks of the 65+ population every day, his message to use the wisdom and experience of older adults is more valuable than ever.  He compared the magnitude of this societal change to the era when women entered the work force and took on new roles.  Stressing that later life should be more than a pale imitation of earlier years, he shared three big ideas to support using the contributions of older adults.

Gap Year for Grown-ups:  Taking a gap year between high school and college has become an accepted strategy for exploring options and preparing for college.  Marc Freedman proposed a gap year for seniors to give them time to try out options for the next life stage.  Encore.org is providing $25,000 scholarships for people working part-time in non-profit corporations.  Some corporations are starting to offer this option for senior staff.

New Education:  There are plenty of programs to help college freshmen, but where are the programs to help people in their fifties and sixties who want to explore new identities and educational options to benefit both themselves and their communities?

New Policies: More flexible policies to support innovation and recognize the new reality of longer, healthier, more productive lives are needed.  For example, how might social security be more supportive to people pursing new options in their sixties?  Freedman suggested an individual purpose account.

Saying that rather than chasing sixty as the new forty, we need to embrace sixty as sixty and contribute to the public good, Freedman encouraged the audience to stop trying to be young and be there for those who truly are young.  He closed his keynote presentation with the following quote from William James.

The great use for life is to spend it on something that will outlast us.

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