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Greedy geezers? Try wellspring of talent

Resource type: News

Times Union |

Community colleges court baby boomers searching for new career training Original Source By MARC PARRY, Staff writer TROY — For Hope Melton, a public health professional, retirement felt like falling off a cliff. The 67-year-old from Saratoga Springs thought of pursuing a Ph.D., but that would mean tackling the SAT. She went to the senior center, but felt out of place there. “I want to continue to do meaningful work,” she said. “I also want to get paid for it.” While not a baby boomer herself, Melton’s experience may be a precursor of what’s to come for the millions of boomers approaching retirement age, many of whom are eager to keep working. How community colleges can educate boomers for second careers is a national issue that came under a local spotlight Wednesday in a conference at Hudson Valley Community College. Academia has often ignored senior education, even as most boomers say they plan to delay retirement by staying in current jobs or retraining for new ones. Few of the country’s nearly 1,200 community colleges formally promote senior-focused programs, according to a 2007 AARP study. That’s changing. The American Association of Community Colleges, backed by a $3.2 million grant from The Atlantic Philanthropies, is working on a national program to retrain adults over 50. The think tank Civic Ventures, meanwhile, awarded grants to 10 community colleges that are coming up with ways to transform a generation once known for distrusting anyone over 30 into “purpose-driven” seniors finding new work in education, health care and social services. “We’re at the doorstep of the creation of a new life stage that has no name,” said Marc Freedman, an author and founder of the San Francisco-based think tank ( Freedman gave the keynote lecture at Hudson Valley’s conference. Freedman laid out the numbers: Somewhere between 76 and 80 million baby boomers, 10,000 of them turning 60 every day. Life expectancy is closing in on 80. It’s an awkward period for many people, in part because it can last so long. Promising fields for “encore” careers to fill that time include the nonprofit sector, which projects a major leadership shortage over the next decade. There’s also growth in “green-collar” jobs focused on climate change, Freedman said. The 50-year-old guru of aging, who wore a light beard and rectangular glasses, portrayed boomers as a “windfall of talent.” He contrasted that with popular accounts of “this long gray wave of greedy geezers who are out there taking America to the cleaners bankrupting future generations.” For community colleges, targeting boomers is a chance to grab more of the education market. Hudson Valley President Andrew Matonak said his Troy college needs to take senior education to another level, but he didn’t know yet how that would look. “We need to reach out to our community and find out what they’re interested in,” he said. Melton, the retiree, ended up starting the Saratoga Vital Aging Network. The grassroots organization uses education and advocacy to promote self-determination, civic engagement and continuing growth for people as they age. “I’m creating my career,” she said.

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United States


American Association of Community Colleges, Civic Ventures