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The Upside of Aging: How Long Life Is Changing the World of Health, Work, Innovation, Policy and Purpose by Paul Irving

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Chapter 7 Encore: Mapping the Route to Second Acts

Marc Freedman

Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Encore.org

The upside of aging amounts to a human capital windfall, capable of turning dependency ratios into a new source of abundance—not just the opportunity for more fulfilling lives but the key to solving many of the social problems that ail us as a nation.

Crossing my personal midcentury mark, I found myself face-to-face with an unexpected, and uncomfortable, reality. Here I was, someone who for more than a decade had headed a nonprofit organization to help people aged 50 and over move on to new, productive chapters in their lives. Yet when I hit the milestone myself, I found myself leaning out, not in. In short, I needed a break from that very work. I still cared deeply about it—and knew how lucky I was to have a job in the moribund economy of 2008—but I was starting to flag, even unsure about what should come next.

I was approaching traditional retirement age, but I had a young family, with two sons who eventually would be joined by a third. Simple math made it clear I’d be working for decades to come. As I found my personal and professional concerns converging in ways that caught me by surprise, I decided to cobble together a three-month sabbatical, to reconnect with the sense of mission that had carried me to this point, and get a much-needed breather.

In a previous generation, this might have been a prelude to retirement, or even an early foray into retirement ...

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