Social Entrepreneurship for Seniors: Purpose Prize

by Marianne Richmond on November 30, 2005

A great deal is being written about the aging baby boomers, that attention grabbing, developmental stage defining, amorphous yet distinct,  demographic group that I count myself as a member of…..I think sometimes that one of our most distinctive characteristics is our lack of acceptance of aging but perhaps that, along with the feeling of distinctiveness itself, is just part of the developmental stage process. So, the addition of aging  to baby boomer, aging baby boomer, as in, I am an aging baby boomer, is a bit disconcerting.

There are several recent blog posts asnd articles specifically addressing the aging baby boomer paradox. David Wolfe at Ageless Marketing frequently writes great posts about aging and baby boomers in the context of marketing. His perspective is shaped by developmental stage theory and in his view the second half of life is very different than the first in regard to internal versus external focus. In our later years, we focus outward and seek to understand the meaning of life, specifically the meaning of our lifes.

James Hillman, a psychologist and the author of 20 amazing books, wrote one book, The Force of Character and the Lasting Life that says that the purpose pf aging is the fulfillment and confirmation of our character. His thesis is that even the ravages of old age have a purpose: changes in sleep patterns allow us to experience elements of nighttime that we missed when asleep or the decline in short term memory allows us the opportunity for longer term reflection. He writes, "Aging makes metaphors of biology." He speaks of life being cyclical and that if we want our lives not to stray too far from our character, we need to make tiny adjustments like a sailor with a hand on the tiller, constantly correcting course though never exactly on-course.

It is in the second half of life that we feel the pull to stay close to our families and to work toward the social good. The benefit to society was termed, "return on experience(ROE)" by Civic Ventures, a San Fransisco non-profit that develops outreach programs for baby boomers and seniors to serve the public good. They are launching a program in June called the "Purpose Prize" that will award $100,000 each to five social entrepreneurs who according to the Wall Street Journal are "individuals age 60 or older who are trying to improve their communities through their work." Applications will be taken at beginning on Tuesday, December 6th.

Civic Ventures says according to the Wall Street Journal, that in addition to helping the five social entrepreneurs they also wish to highlight the results of a survey they conducted that indicated that three fifths of adults in their fifties said they wanted to use the next stage of their lives to serve their communities. Civic Ventures notes that the oldest of the baby boomers will turn sixty in January, the healthiest, best educated population of Americans to reach the stage that Civic Ventures calls "pioneers"…a stage of life between middle and later life, neither young nor old. Essentially, baby boomers will become senior boomers….as we turn sixty we will be, now let’s not choke when we say it, seniors.

The Senior Lawyers Project is another non-profit that uses over 60 talent for the prublic good. With a budget of $175,000 and three employees, they have sent 200 US attorneys to developing counties over the past four years.

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