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Is Encore the New Women's Movement?

A sense of community drives a movement for social change

By Suzanne Braun Levine | Encore.org | July 31, 2013

One night in June, I spent an exhilarating evening exploring the Encore message with Marci Alboher and about 200 people who had come to the New York Public Library to find out more about her book The Encore Career Handbook. In our presentation, Marci covered the nuts and bolts of how to envision and find work that matters to you in the second half of life, and I tried to connect the Encore Movement with the Women’s Movement – in which I have spent both halves of my working life.

Given the realities of the times, it was no surprise that most of the audience were out of work and many were getting discouraged. Marci’s pointers, exercises, and – most of all – true stories were just what they needed to hear.

The message to everyone looking to change or find work was: Be resourceful and don’t dismiss any options that present themselves. We were all especially taken with three of the people interviewed in Marci’s book who showed up:

  • Judy, who loved animals and photography, volunteered at the Central Park Zoo and was eventually hired as a photodocumentarian.
  • Fred, a retired parole officer, had a series of encores in criminal justice and now works part-time in a completely new field, as a health navigator at the Hospital for Special Surgery.
  • Nancy, who dropped out of the corporate world to raise her children, has turned a passion for nutrition and wellness into a health coaching practice she runs with her husband.

Just hearing from people who had gotten themselves out of the same boat was encouraging, and I could see spirits rising at the realization that those in the room were in good company. That sense of community is what drives a movement for social change. When women began telling one another the truth about their lives back in the ’70s we discovered that we were not a collection of unnatural women but a powerful force, energized by outrage, that could have an impact on the way society treated all women. “The truth will set you free,” Gloria Steinem says, “But first it will piss you off.” Injustice is annoying, to say the least.

The Encore movement is becoming empowered by those who are living it, and also by those who support the notion that, as Marc Freedman puts it, “people over 50 are the most underutilized civic resource in our society.” As the evening wore on, Marci and I could see the collective energy in the room take off. People began to share their stories and help one another brainstorm job ideas; they also turned their discontent from their own failed efforts to the circumstances they were all in.

The only advice I could add was not to try to go it alone. If I have learned anything about changing our lives it is that to keep on keeping on we each need a personal posse of trusted advisers and cheerleaders at our side. By the same token we all can take strength from a social movement that can confront those challenges on a larger scale.