Second Careers: How They Can Positively Affect a Senior’s Life

Seniors with a second career

For many seniors, life after retirement brings many questions. Should they head around the world to travel? Should they consider staying with family to help raise younger relatives? What is their role in the community once their careers are over—or what if they have little to no work experience? How can they contribute now that they are done raising children or making homes? What should seniors do to keep their finances in order, especially if their retirement wealth is small? Enter encore careers – which is the new term for second careers.

One way to keep life interesting, contribute to communities, and earn money is to enter into an “encore career.” Encore careers reinforce how valuable life after retirement can be for seniors., a group focused on matching seniors with encore careers, recently released its Impact Report for 2015-2016. They examined seniors in their programs, which specifically support people looking for a career after the age of 50 who want to make their communities and organizations better places.


Seniors Contributing to their Communities

For many seniors reaching retirement age, feelings of disconnection can arise. Fortunately, however, many seniors are willing and able to offer their years of experience and wisdom to improving their communities. Many are willing to offer considerable amounts of physical, intellectual, and emotional labor as well. Organizations that worked with’s seniors reported that these seniors provided valuable services. Some 91% of them “contributed skill(s) or labor that the community might not otherwise have been able to access.” This means that, without the labor of seniors working past retirement age, many of these organization’s offerings could not have happened.

There would be fewer people with a reading mentor, for example, in New York City. Fewer people would be helping to increase community health projects in Denver. Kansas City would have fewer supporters of community projects based on low-income need.

The value of this work is, obviously, difficult to measure. Yet it is clear from’s report that seniors working in encore careers and/or volunteering overwhelmingly improved community and organization outcomes. Seniors offered energy, time, and love to their communities, and even strengthened the community participant base 85% of the time. That means that seniors who worked with these organizations were able to bring in others and increase general support of their efforts.


Volunteerism vs. Income

Although they are interested in volunteering in their communities, for some seniors money is an issue. They cannot work for free. The report shows that there are options for seniors to continue to earn money while also finding careers in which they flourish. Nearly half of the seniors working with had positive financial impact on the organizations they served. In some cases, they reduced operating costs. In others, they increased revenue. More than half—52%—augmented the organization’s ability to serve more.

Clearly, seniors are valuable financial assets to organizations. Programs such as demonstrate this. Companies should be doing more to employ them. Some perhaps could be swayed by the data in the Encore Impact Report to begin paying seniors for their valuable and unique qualifications.

Civic involvement was socially applauded when Baby Boomers were growing up. Returning to their roots and giving back to the community is a wonderful way for seniors to remain social and to continue to add value to society. Seniors who stay at home and are isolated are more likely to become bored, hopeless, depressed, and anxious. Those who venture out and contribute to the community (even if it is only a few hours a week) are much less at risk for these life-threatening emotional and mental health dangers.

In many communities, the presence of seniors adds significant value before they even begin the work itself. For some young people or those in significant need, having someone older who cares enough to work past retirement age carries significant weight. Seniors volunteering for the good of their communities can contribute much by their mere presences.


Encore Careers—Overwhelmingly Positive Impact

It is clear from this report that seniors with second careers have overwhelmingly positive impact on those around them. Making this choice and commitment to work voluntarily is a sacrifice that is not for every senior. Yet it has potential for many seniors. After all, if the millions of people over 65 contributed only five hours a week to their communities, immense changes for the good would be possible.

The best thing the report revealed is that seniors have a way of spreading their impact around. It is not just that seniors have a way of making things work well. They also have a way of getting others to buy into the work. Over 80% of the seniors studied in this report built positive relationships with others at the workplace through explaining, coaching, mentoring, and using relationship skills. They not only did their work; they connected with others in meaningful and helpful ways.  All of this adds up to nice pay off for those seniors who choose to start second careers.

For excellent resources on how a senior can get involved in an encore career, visit



Emerman, Jim and Werley, Betsy. (2015-2016). The Encore Impact Project: A Study of Encore Talent at Work.,  Available at Retrieved October 7, 2016.