Demography may be destiny, but it’s also opportunity. Longer and healthier lives for many in America and around the world bring the opportunity to explore new passions and purposes in a new stage of life. To increase the visibility and impact of these explorations, the John Templeton Foundation has supported the Purpose Prize for people 60 and over who devote their “retirement years” to creating programs for social good. The inspiring prize recipients represent the leading edge of what’s possible if millions more older adults could similarly invest their time and talents. For such broad-scale social transformation, we need to build more “on-ramps” to encore careers—and we need as many builders as possible. These could include options ranging from encore fellowships at Fortune 500 companies and individual purpose accounts that enable preretirement savings for transitions to a Peace Corps model for older adults.
Philanthropy will be a key partner in this life-stage transformation, offering the freedom to test new ideas, back long-shot bets, and promote innovation. The growing philanthropic sector has plenty of room to be a catalyst for new approaches that take full advantage of what Paul Irving has called the “upside of aging.” By experimenting with new approaches, expanding novel programs, and increasing awareness of how encore careers don’t just benefit older adults but also increase the greater good, philanthropy can target the gap between how purposeful older adults want to spend their longer, healthier lives and what current policies, programs, and institutions accommodate.
The essay was published in the report titled The Power of Purpose: Culture Change and the New Demography.