Why is the encore movement needed now?
It starts with fundamental demographic change. The world is aging, a result of advances in science and in public health, as well as declining birth rates.
This Census Bureau graph clearly demonstrates what that change looks like in the U.S. By 2030, there will be more people aged 65 and over than 18 and under. Marc Freedman, founder of the encore movement, calls this an opportunity: “The aging of America isn’t so much a problem to be solved as it is an opportunity to be seized.”
Yet for too long, ageism, and outdated narratives of what it means to get older, have interfered with realizing the full promise of this idea. Every day in my work at Changing the Narrative, I hear stories of people who have been disregarded, dismissed and discriminated against as they age. I hear constant comments like this one: “Aging pushes you aside like you have nothing of value to contribute to conversations on social issues and leadership.”
The Encore Network
Marco Davis of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute once said: “Networks are not social movements, but social justice movements need networks.”
Enter the Encore Network, a coalition of individuals and organizations from around the world that have embraced the idea that older adults are incredible resources to communities and work every day to advance it through on-the-ground work like:
- Volunteer and paid Fellows programs such as Boomers Leading Change, Del Mar Encore Fellows , Inspiring Service and PSS Coming of Age that encourage adults age 50+ to use skills they’ve developed over a lifetime in a variety of volunteer activities in their communities
- Intergenerational programs like OASIS, which provides tutoring in a number of locations across the US
- Encore talent coaches and programs like The Transition Network and Encore Boston Network that help older adults plan for and navigate second and third-phase work lives
- Workforce and higher education programs like Encore! Connecticut and the University of Minnesota Advanced Careers Programs that retrain and upskill older adults for encore work and volunteerism for social good
- Individuals and initiatives like Age Wave, Milken Institute Center on the Future of Aging, Ashton Applewhite and Changing the Narrative in Colorado that seek to change the way people think about aging and older people, and to confront ageism
- Funders like The Cleveland Foundation and Grand Rapids Community Foundation, as well as social change thought leaders like Ashoka that understand the importance of the encore movement in a rapidly aging society
In so doing, Encore Network members are bringing Marc Freedman’s vision to life, and changing the narrative about what it means to get older.
Why the Encore Network is needed now more than ever
The social movement to end ageism and change the narrative about what it means to get older is growing, driven both by demographic change and the ageism exposed during the pandemic. Gloria Steinem once said: “The future depends entirely on what each of us does every day; a movement is only people moving.” The Encore Network puts boots on the ground for the encore movement.
We know that older adults are ready to be engaged. A recently released study by Age Wave and Edward Jones found that:
- 55% of those surveyed define the new retirement as a “whole new chapter in life.”
- 89% of Americans of all ages feel there should be more opportunities for older people to “use their talents and knowledge for the benefit of their communities and society.”
- 95% of retirees say “it’s important to keep learning and growing at every age.”
- Half of those age 50 and over would like to serve as a mentor.
At this exceptional time in history, the encore movement and the Encore Network are needed. The opportunity is waiting. Please join us.
Janine Vanderburg is the chair of the Encore Network Leadership Council.