60 is the new 40: Bay Area boomers resist retirement, find 'encore' careers

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It’s a startling number that shows a demographic shift in this country: the US Census Bureau says 10,000 Americans turn 65 every day – and that rate will continue for the next 14 years.

But don’t expect country club enrollment to swell or park benches near duck ponds to never have vacancy again.

“Most boomers aren’t slowing down,” says Jeff Johnson, director of the Florida chapter of AARP. “We are living longer, healthier lives and we’re living differently than our parents or grandparents did at age 60.”

He says in general, baby boomers are taking better care of themselves and are finding, at age 60-something, they have just as much energy and drive as they did at 40-something. As a result, they either have no desire to retire or they’re coming out of retirement to pursue a different opportunity. 

Chris Griffin certainly falls into the latter category. At age 62, he is a successful business trial lawyer at the Tampa firm of Foley & Lardner.  After 38 years of practicing law, he still loves his job and has no desire to quit.

“I can easily see myself doing this another ten years,” says Griffin.  “I actually feel better physically than I did 20 years ago.”

He attributes that to a disciplined exercise regimen that he has maintained since his playing days as a defensive back at Florida State in the early 1970’s. He works out three to five days a week, and his weekends are usually filled with outdoor adventures.

“I love hiking, mountain climbing, camping,” says Griffin. “Being outdoors reenergizes my soul, and when I do retire, those are things I will fill my life with: challenging outdoor activities.”

Bevan Rogel, 61, took a different path to arrive at the same conclusion as Griffin: this is not a time to slow down.  A successful leadership development consultant for 35 years, she says a few years ago, she found herself in a rut and facing her own mortality.

“I said to my husband, ‘It feels like I’m in the fourth quarter of the football game, and I really want to make the right play to make it count’,” says Rogel.

She came across a book by Marc Freedman titled Encore:  Finding Work That Matters In The Second Half of Life.

“When I read that book, it was like a light bulb moment. I was like 'wow, there's 80 million boomers who may be thinking the same way I am and don't know what it is that they want to do next,” says Rogel.

With her decades of experience in leadership development, she decided her new career would be helping other people figure out theirs. She reached out to Freedman’s Encore organization, a non-profit dedicated to helping boomers find encore careers or other some other fulfilling mission.

“You can get involved in a non-profit, start a non-profit, start a new business,” says Rogel.

She founded Encore Tampa Bay, a local arm of the national organization.  

Using a three-step approach, it connects boomers with organizations or companies that can benefit from their skill set. Step one involves attending workshops to assess your interests and meeting with coaches to assist you in discovering your next chapter. Step two consists of “re-tooling”, figuring out what skills you need to sharpen or learn to achieve your goal. Step three connects the person to businesses, government agencies, non-profits and entrepreneurs who might benefit from the person’s experience, skills and ideas.

Encore Tampa Bay works in synchrony with Life Reimagined, an AARP online program designed to help people achieve a similar objective. 

Johnson says if you think you’re too old to try something new, then you’re in danger of becoming just that.

“Old is what you make of it,” says Johnson. “When you quit growing is when you really start aging. So never quit growing.”

Rogel puts it this way:

“Your life is not over when you hit 60. Quite the opposite, in fact. You have only competed the first act; you have an amazing second act ahead of you, a second chapter in your life where you get to do it on your terms.”