- By Sue Campbell
When Bill Zinke surveys the national work landscape, he sees both waste and opportunity.
What’s wasted are the talents and skills of America’s 50+ population: “It’s my view that they need to be better recognized, appreciated and served,” Zinke says.
And therein lies the opportunity. Zinke is launching a new company to bring together mature Americans who want to remain productive and engaged, whether in paid work or volunteerism.
Enrich Life Over 50, or ELO50, plans to organize chapters in 27 U.S. cities where members will gather to hear the latest ideas from leaders in a range of industries, learn new skills and network.
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A pilot half-day meeting takes place Saturday, March 14, in Raleigh, N.C., where the first speaker is Andy Albright, president and CEO of National Agents Alliance and a motivational speaker. Albright’s business has individuals sell life insurance under an umbrella organization.
“His talk will be about people creating their own business, becoming entrepreneurs,” Zinke says. After two more short presentations, audience members will discuss what they heard, ask questions and benefit from peer perspectives. Maybe they’ll talk about starting a business out of a home office or partnering with a younger colleague on a new venture, Zinke says.
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He notes that ELO50 meetings will be held on Saturdays, since so many in the target age group still work full-time jobs. Both the meeting format and cost structure are still being finalized, but Zinke estimated annual dues would be $500 to $1,000 for 10 half- or full-day meetings a year.
Later in 2015, chapters will roll out in Boston, New York and Philadelphia. Going forward, each chapter will decide what to focus on based on membership interests.
Bullish on Older Employees
Zinke, founder of Human Resource Services, has been studying and talking about the aging population’s effect on workforce planning since the ‘90s. As he helped companies prepare for the bulge of boomers reaching retirement age, he came to see a competitive advantage for employers who decide to retain or hire older workers.
For one thing, they stay with jobs longer (10 years on average compared to three years for people aged 20 to 34). For another, they have what Zinke calls “Double ESP: experience, expertise, seasoned judgment and proven performance.”
“The vast majority are perceived to be reliable and dependable, and they add value in many ways,” he says.
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And yet, when this age group retires, they often stop contributing. Zinke, 88, sees this as unsustainable, given pressures on Social Security and on younger generations to sustain the system.
“With 109 million Americans over age 50 — that’s a third of the U.S. population — it’s economically and socially untenable not to benefit from their skills and abilities to get the job done,” he says.
Productive, Happy Lives
Since the start of the 20th century, we’ve added 30 years to lifespan, and many of those years could be productive, Zinke argues. He’d love to see a national push for more college classes in entrepreneurism and more focus on successful aging, including contributing through meaningful work.
For his own part, ELO50 aims to bring 50+ people together to launch enterprises and support one another as they search for what gives them a sense of accomplishment and simultaneously enriches the world around them, whether through paid or unpaid work.
Zinke also hopes his new company will prevent the loneliness and isolation that can seep in after retirement.
“A substantial benefit is the social connections that develop beyond these meetings,” he says.
Ultimately, engaged, productive people end up feeling happier and staying healthier as they age. Zinke hopes his new company will provide a path to successful aging.