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Encore Careers: Or a Worthy Life Begins at 60

The next time you hear someone complain about their life being "over" because they're turning 40, tell them about Robert Chambers. Robert Chambers At age 62, after working for years as a software engineer, Chambers is enjoying a second career as a social entrepreneur. He is now transforming the lives of hundreds of low-income people in New Hampshire by helping them get a car they can afford, in a rural state where cars are essential. NOW will profile Chambers and his innovative organization—Bonnie CLAC—on our June 22 broadcast [the video will be posted after broadcast here]. Chambers is just one of many older Americans who are starting or getting involved in projects with a humanitarian mission.

As the population ages, a growing number of older and retired Americans are viewing their talent and experience as an asset to be invested through service and advocacy. According to an October 2006 Business Week article, older social entrepreneurs

… are starting companies and nonprofits that apply new business solutions to intractable social problems in the fields of housing, education, health care, and the environment, among others.
Anecdotally, this rings true—it seems the bios for many people leading social entrepreneurial projects begin along these lines “Jane retired from such and such industry…”

Helping create more opportunities for older Americans to get involved in philanthropic work is one of the goals of Civic Ventures [disclosure: Civic Ventures has received funding from the Skoll Foundation, which also supports Enterprising Ideas]. The group gives out a $100,000 “Purpose Prize –-Chambers was a finalist in 2006—to people over 60 who are helping solve society’s problems. They also run a number of programs designed to get baby boomers involved in public interest projects.

Are you over 50 and looking to spice up your life with a volunteer gig or even a new job at an enterprising social organization? To learn about other organizations that take advantage of older Americans’ talents, check out this list from Civic Ventures and this list from AARP.

In a video of Chambers produced by Civic Ventures, Chambers talks about how his inspiration for Bonnie CLAC "grew over time." The kind of insight and imagination necessary to conquer an intractable social problem is often borne from experience. And it's not so surprising then, that some of the leading social innovators have a half century or more of life and work experience under their belt. [UPDATE: Read more about the new generation of social entrepreneurs in this interview with Marc Freedman, founder of Civic Ventures.]


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