Friday, October 26, 2012

Carol Greenfield: Pioneering What's Next

Carol Greenfield, thinking creatively about  life's next stage

Way before I even contemplated a blog on the transition out of careers,  Carol Greenfield was plowing the new turf of "what's next," sewing seeds and watching them spring up into a movement. 
That movement has a lot of names at this point. Encore Life, Next Generation, Third Age, Third Generation.
But Carol was there near the start. She told me about a seminal meeting she attended in 2001 where a guru of the engage-the-aging groundswell,  Marc Freedman, invited about 75 Boston area aging experts “to propose a new paradigm about what aging could look like in the future,” Carol said.

Even the word “retirement” had to go, the group declared. “Retirement as we’d known it was created by real estate and financial services entrepreneurs,” Carol explained, specifically Del Webb, who in 1960 launched the idea of people retiring to a place (Sun City, Ariz.) where “everyone was the same age, played golf and shuffle board and ate out.” 

The idea of age as an asset -- not a liability -- which Freedman was espousing, resonated with Carol who noted that,  “People have talents and assets at this age.”
 Freedman went on to establish the concept of an Encore life stage and write Encore: Finding Work that Matters in the Second Half of Life and founded the Experience Corps and
Meanwhile,  Carol, a Boston gerontologist, launched “Discovering What’s Next?”  which started 10 years ago with a meeting at the Newton Free Library.  From that first day, when about 150 people showed up, it has blossomed into a hub of connections for people 55 and over seeking volunteer work, paid work in the profit and non-profit sectors, transition support groups and more.  The group's name was selected and trademarked, Carol said, to convey a time that's  “positive, exciting and optimistic.”  
“This generation is the first to look forward to 30 to 40 more years -- maybe more than their working years, “ she said.   To look at that as one chunk was no longer realistic. 
The “encore” lifestage, is a time when people “are interested in work, but work with personal meaning and social impact.”
But there's a mismatch. The non-profits, who desperately need the skills of this burgeoning group, don’t know how to take advantage of this talent pool. 
“In addition to age discrimination, there is the feeling that experienced adults want to make big salaries; or young staff are uneasy having people the age of their parents report to them,” Carol said.
Not one to shirk a challenge, she stepped up to help address the problem --even as her husband, David Greenfield was winding down his dental practice to focus on his own encore life stage as a photographer. 
Carol created a partnership between her Newton group and JVS Boston, which this summer brought to town a venture that is putting down roots around the country. ReServe, Inc. -- Innovative Staffing for Non-Profits --matches post-career “continuing professionals” (ReServists) with non-profit and public sector groups in dire need of their services. It’s a win-win-win:  ReServe Greater Boston offers a framework to help the organizations define their needs and connect them to experienced and enthusiastic talent. The groups pay $15 an hour to ReServe, of which $10 goes to the ReServist as a stipend.
"So many people are eager to do meaningful work and make a little money and stay productive," she said, but without such a framework, they had little way to find a position that engaged their skills in a rewarding way.
Yo, Philadelphia! ReServe is now in New York, Maryland, Florida, New Jersey and Wisconsin, not to Any ideas on launching it here? 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Andrew Weil: Embracing the Inevitable

In his home town of Philadelphia on Sunday, the guru of integrative medicine, Dr. Andrew Weil, had a disturbing message for those of us who have plunged headlong into the unretiring camp, determined to not think about the inevitable.
"Fighting aging is a colossal waste of time,” said Weil. “If you try to stop the aging process, you put yourself in opposition to nature.”
At age 70, this Central High and Harvard Med School grad is nonetheless upbeat. Where, as a younger man, he jogged, then biked, he now swims, having paid attention to the grumblings of his knees. His once-radical ideas about nutrition are finally gaining traction in medical schools and he remains at the vortex of the health movement he started decades ago.  
Speaking at Forever Young, a Center City health event that benefitted the Klein branch of JCC and drew about 1000 people, Weil talked about the goal of extending one’s healthy years and pushing disease and decline to a "rapid drop off.”
How to do that? Not so much with drugs as with lifestyle changes:
--Keep up the physical activity, but don’t stick with the sports that hurt;
--Stay socially and intellectually connected;
--Eat more Mediterranean-type foods, with fewer of the bad types of fats and carbs that promote inflammatory reactions in the body. The beneficial whole grains, he said, have little bits and pieces you can see, not the “pulverized” stuff.
--Take 2,000 IU of Vitamin D; there’s growing evidence that it prevents all kinds of ailments.
And breathe.
A kind of yogic breathing exercise, he maintains, is “spectacularly effective” at reducing stress. It goes like this:  Take four sniffing type deep inhales through your nose, one on top of the other, without an exhale. Hold that breath for seven counts, then exhale loudly and slowly through your mouth. Do this four times in a row. And practice it two to four times a day.
Try it at bedtime to help you sleep. And turn to it during moments of stress.
It’s an antidote to the “fight or flight” response, Weil says.
The “relentless anti-aging message of our culture,” he says, “distracts us from the important goal of being healthy through life.”
Instead, Weill says, our culture should look at the positives of aging. As with wine and whiskey, the passage of time results in more depth and complexity. And ancient trees represent power.
"They're survivors."

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Speaking out on "Food Liberty" -- David Gumpert

In the first interview I did for this blog last fall, the former director of the Upper Merion Recreation Department, told me, with great delight, that he’d been  “unHatched.”  As a public employee, under the Hatch Act, David Broida had not been allowed to engage in politics. Now, he is thrilled to be able to speak out politically and raise money for President Obama.
 I, too, felt liberated leaving my journalism job. Each year, I had to sign a code of ethics, promising  not to engage in any activity that would create a conflict of interest with my work – or even the appearance of one.
But a recent freelance assignment – dissecting the Romney and Obama Medicare plans   – made me realize that I am still not really free to speak out.  Not if I want to continue as a fact-seeking reporter, trying to be as objective as possible.

Business writer and author David Gumpert has also wrestled with this issue of voice and conviction.  He spent most of his career attempting to be incisive but neutral, first as a reporter for publications such as the Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review and Inc. magazine,  and later as the owner of a publishing company specializing in business content.  Then he was touched by an act of injustice, as he saw it, and became so impassioned, that he’s now  a national advocate for his issue, quoted in such places as the  New Yorker.  
After so many years in journalism, advocacy is a mantle David wears uncomfortably but he feels his cause goes to the heart of what America is all about.  Free choice and a free market.
Photo by Kathryn Niflis Johnson
His issue?  Raw milk.
How could raw milk  be controversial? you might ask. But both sides of the debate feel that they are absolutely in the right.  I’m going to oversimplify:
On one side, the government –with all its powers of regulation, enforcement and arrest -- has the duty to protect the public from illness and death from unpasteurized products. Just as passionate are the raw milk folks.  Both buyers and sellers believe in the potential benefits of cleanly produced raw (unpasteurized) milk as a more nutritional product, that might even help prevent such conditions as asthma. And they believe in their right to be producers and consumers of it.
 Little did David know that a war was raging over the issue when he stumbled on  a small online post in 2006.  “The Michigan Department of Agriculture had conducted a sting operation against a farmer in Michigan, stopped him on the highway, confiscated his raw milk and other stuff he was bringing to a cooperative in Ann Arbor.  Then two weeks later, it happened to a farmer in California.  The state Department of Agriculture came and shut his farm down.”
“People were outraged,” Gumpert said, of the outpouring on his health blog, the Complete Patient.  
Since then, he’s written about confrontations involving custom slaughtered meat, pastured eggs that don’t necessarily meet all the regulations about refrigeration—“foods that the government is trying hard to keep off the market and restrict more and more,” he said.
David has also argued against efforts in cities such as Philadelphia and New York to ban sugared soft drinks.
“I don’t drink soft drinks and I don’t serve them to my family, but I don’t think we should ban them,” he said. “We should educate people. No matter what the food, we shouldn’t be banning foods…“We should decide what food we should put into our bodies.”
 “I think it’s real important that we keep those rights, and that people who are producing the food have the ability to produce this food. Otherwise we’re going to be in a situation where our only choice is this overly sterilized food. I really believe that.”
 David Gumpert, the journalist, continues to write books and report on his blog.  David Gumpert, the advocate, quietly helps farmer groups deal with the media. He’s uncomfortable but determined.
“I’ve become like an activist in this food rights movement, which is a totally unexpected and new turn for me,” he said.  
At 65, he could be spending more time reading, riding his bike and traveling, which he loves.  But, he says, in words echoed often on this blog,  “I want to do something beneficial, something that could be helpful to others.”
In the same spirit, minions of the  “unHatched, ” such as David Broida, along with others with the newly found freedom of time, are pouring their energy into the upcoming election – on one side or the other.
Because of what they believe is right.

Monday, October 15, 2012

UnRetiring: Surprising Stories of a New Generation

Leaping into new adventures

A year ago this month, I “retired”  from  my lifelong career in newspapers. I left filled with the anxiety common to my generation.

What would I do? Who would I be?
Like a move to a new city, people said, “Give it two years. You’re in transition.”
To what? And why wait?
I decided to do what journalists do: I began to interview others who were going through what I was going through – the transition from career to what I call the “next great thing.”
 And because I cringe at the word “retired,” I called my blog “UnRetiring.”
This new stage of life is in the spotlight now. It’s new because so many people are living healthy so much longer. Just as adolescence now seems to stretch to age 30 or so, “middle age” is creeping into Medicare land. And it’s exploding because the Boomers, the oldest of whom are 66, are now stepping into it.
Over the year, I have been surprised by the ways people are reinventing themselves as well as by their range of emotions.
I’ve talked with people who feel guilty if they’re not somehow contributing to bettering the world. And others who feel totally guilt-free, thrilled to be mostly just improving themselves. I’ve learned how much harder it is to enter this stage of life if you were forced out of the old one through a downsizing; the ego bruising lingers on. And I’ve laughed a lot, learning about late love affairs and unlikely leaps.
Speaking of leaps, I’ve been advised to be mindful of plunging in and to learn to say “no.” Instead, in exploration mode,  I’ve said “yes” to almost every idea that’s come my way, creating exhaustion and exhilaration.
Rick Cooper -- playing with locks
The number of people who worry for years about leaving their careers, even as they crave doing so, surprised me. I don’t know why it surprised me, since I endlessly had the same debate with myself – until I finally left, after 30 years at the Philadelphia Inquirer. .
Once on the other side, I found that organizations have sprung up around the country to help people who want meaning in their lives to find ways to do so. And I’ve also found people in transition eager to talk-- one on one, in small living room groups, and through this blog.
Today, in the first installment for, I’ll share the story of Rick Cooper, a New Hampshire locksmith I met by chance one dark and dreary night. My interviews will run daily through this Friday, then weekly on Mondays

Read past interviews and get a glimpse of Dotty Brown’s own transition over the past year at

Monday, October 8, 2012

Paying --A Lot -- for "Camp Me"

$20,000 to $90,000 for a retirement coach? (And we're not just talking financial planning)

See the New Yorker this week for a look inside what the writer, Patricia Marx,  calls "Camp Me,"  one of numerous coaching services that have sprung up to service befuddled boomers who feel as if they're about to step off a cliff (maybe a fiscal one, maybe a physical one, but mostly a what-the-hell's my future? one.)

Have I wasted a year of my life on this blog,  giving out free advice to the world? (My blog statistics say there are some in Russia... hmm.. probably trying to hack their way into the secrets my interviewees have been sharing. And there's the cousin in Australia.).  

Nah, you can't measure fun in dollars. In fact, it was the fun that was no longer in my paycheck that led me to check outta there.

Would you pay for a retirement coach ? What ever happened toexploration? figuring it out with your friends? finding yourself... yourself?

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Like Selling Belts -- How Eva Made New Friends

Eva Horowitz, sporting one of her belts.

For 37 years, Eva Horowitz was a speech and language pathologist living near Boston. Then she and her husband decided to upend their lives. They packed up and moved.

Their aged parents, their adult son and grandchildren had all landed in Connecticut. Their best friends had relocated near this new family hub. Eva’s school system was offering   “a minor incentive to retire,” and she thought, “‘Hmm, I’m 60; this may just tip the scales.”  Then, the clincher:  “Someone said, ‘We’ll take your house. Just walk out.’”

“It seemed like all the stars were aligned,”  Eva said.  “So we moved.”  Her transition-- a reinventing of herself, from full time work, to what? and from a tight social life, to who will  be my friend? -- was a daunting challenge she knew lay before her.

A stylish,  gregarious woman, Eva decided she would tackle the move in the same way she had tackled her sideline – selling designer belts to boutiques, out of the trunk of her car. 

”I said to myself, no one’s going to ask me to join their lives because I’m the newcomer so I have to put myself out there,” Eva explained.  “One of the things you learn in sales is that you say to people, ‘Just try it on. If you don’t like it, you can just take it off.’ So using that philosophy was how I kind of navigated my way through the new life.”

At a dinner party for 12, where she knew only two people, she announced: “‘I’ve always wanted to start a film group; I’m asking everybody in the room to give me a try. I’ll do all the work. You can meet at my house. If you don’t like it, you never have to do it again,’-- kind of like the belt.”
 The film group is in its second year. 

“Then I wanted to be in a book group and I didn’t know anybody.  So any time I saw anyone from the age of 45 to 70 reading a book, I’d say, ‘What are you reading? Is that for pleasure or part of a book group?’  I started collecting names and a year later I had 10 names and now we have a book group.”
There was more.

“I never had any discretionary time in my life, I’d always worked. I felt like I was in a candy shop. What will I do next? So I signed up for all kinds of courses,” she explained. “My philosophy was I was going to try everything and if I didn’t like it, I could discard it. I learned to play bridge and when I played with someone I liked, I said, ‘You know, I feel this connection with you. Can I have your email?’ I would follow up and now I have new friends who play bridge.. So that’s been my philosophy going forward.”
To Eva’s surprise, she found that “people our age are open and excited about new events, new people. I wouldn’t have believed that for a minute. I’d thought they were all hooked into their old life.”
Her energy has created a new social network for herself and to some extent for her husband.

“That was my job… to build a life. And I think I’m doing a good job.”