Seven reasons boomers are successful in their “next act”

Robert N. Butler, M.D., a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and founder of the International Longevity Center-U.S.A., had much to say about how boomers view the contributions they can make to their communities, country and the globe. The stereotypes of us declining in our work and productivity are finally starting to change, all because we have embraced youthfulness and  new goals.

Many boomers are not looking at work as something that ends as they age. As they leave traditional “9 to 5” positions, they are starting and succeeding in businesses throughout America. Here’s why.

We know our purpose and passion.

Starting a “next act” can be our way of following our purpose and passion.

For most boomers, freedom from childbearing and raising children, along with the wisdom gained from decades of working to make ends meet, and the soul-searching of growing older have given us a firm grasp on what we see as important in life. We know what we love to do, and how we prefer to do it. We know what we want, and, more importantly, what we don’t want.

Frank Mack, founder of City Antiques in Roswell, Georgia loves running his independent family business out of a 15,000 square foot retail space, with a 3000 square foot warehouse. Everyone knows he has a passion for finding furniture, antiquities and antique books. “I love  recycling, re-purposing and re-loving antique finds for use once again. I left the corporate environment and found my next act in this creative business.”

Vikie Barbos, 60, founder and CEO of the three “Tuscan” assisted living homes in Fountain Hills and Scottsdale, Arizona, found her perfect purpose in eldercare.

When families bring an aging relative to her homes, they are invariably shellshocked from caretaking, and the seniors themselves wonder what their futures hold. “They look at me and ask, ‘Do you really think you can help me?’ I promise them I will give the help they need, no matter what time of day or night.”

We know the meaning of value and value-added.

We’re savvy, educated consumers and professionals who demand value in our own lives and want it for our clients. We’ve negotiated and purchased multiple homes, cars, furnishings and kids’ educations. We know value when we see it.

Susan Howington, 55, started Power Connections Executive Coaching, Leadership and Outplacement Service when she was in her own transitional period. At 55, she brings to the country a new paradigm in helping professionals in job search and career management.

The most valuable service she and her team renders is about making connections. “It’s how most jobs are found. That’s definitely our value-add.”

Power Connections provides individually customized person-to person programs. “We want to see and get to know each person, and start tailoring their search process wherever they are,” she says.

In addition, Howington and her team help working and nonworking professionals define their brands and manage their careers through workshops and globally recognized tools such as Harrison Assessment Talent Solutions products.

We’re redefining “youthful.”

We’re younger than ever in energy and spirit. Don’t let the grey hair and increasing facial lines fool you. We enjoy working with young people, and love hearing their hopes and dreams. We often move to healthier cities and towns where we can pursue outdoor activities, lured by communities with walking paths, biking paths and overpasses for busy streets. We’re invading exercise classes in droves.

Eileen Disken, founder of Smart Bodies Fitness in Fountain Hills, Arizona, retired from the New Jersey public school system in 1998 at age 53, with a plan for her next act. Moving cross-country, she set up a personal training business in the desert. She had already achieved the women’s world record for her 24-hour ultra-marathon win in the South Jersey Roadrunners’ race in 1978, and had run the Boston Marathon. In 1973 she competed as the first woman in the Penn Relay Marathon. She started body building in her early 50s.

With abundant energy and a genuine interest in helping others achieve optimum fitness, her motto is “Age is a state of mind.” She gained her clients through word of mouth. Now, 15 years later, at nearly 68, she has 50, most of them successful entrepreneurs, and many of them over 50 themselves.

Vikie Barbos’ business never tires her out. “I’m required to be active and available 24/7, knowing we might need to issue a 911 call. I’m the one who interacts with medical teams for all of my residents.

We’re also a generation who embraces plastic surgery to align our outsides with the youthfulness we feel on the inside. The demand for arm lifts, eye lifts, jowl lifts and liposuction is higher than ever, for both men and women.

We are genuine and authentic in our relationships.

The years of keeping up with the Joneses are over.  We know who we are. The relationships we build with clients, investors and vendors are infused with honest intentions to treat them respectfully.

Frank Mack’s clients, vendors and associates are loyal to a “t” as they know he is always supportive of them. His storefront and knowledge are avenues for their own successes. He rents out cubical-like spaces to independent antique enthusiasts who wish to sell products with no leases or city licenses needed. “I’m breaking even after three years in business because I’m surrounded by people who love what they do. We have a ‘main street’ atmosphere in the store, with incredible relationships, and service for the hundreds of customers who shop with us.”

Howington says reputation is everything in building Power Connections. “Our relationships with business leaders and organizations are critical to our success in providing valuable connections to our clients,” she says.

“In eldercare you must have good relationships with your workers, hospitals, home health agencies, hospices and family doctors. It’s the only way to succeed,” says Barbos. “You also must have great relationships with residents’ families.”

Happiness is our first priority.

More than fame, fortune, expensive homes and cars, we value our happiness and the happiness of those around us.

Howington points out that her business success is all about helping clients create the happiness of finding a new job or career path. “Their exhilaration and renewed anticipation about their future is what defines our happiness here as well.”

Barbos is an immigrant from Romania, used to having extended family living under the same roof. She currently cares for her mother at home. She established her assisted living homes as beautiful living spaces for her residents. “I want to create happiness for them, helping them all enjoy each day. I have never treated them like they are old. We keep them active and social.”

For Mack, the happiness his growing venture provides him is unfolding as he creates the largest collection of antique books and medical antiquities in Georgia. “I have found the secret to happiness and success right here. I’m surrounded by amazing finds. I no longer need the biggest house on the block, or the fanciest car. I’m living my dream.”

We know first hand the search for meaning.

We want to make a positive impact on our families, communities and the world. We don’t want to “die with our music still in us,” to quote Oliver Wendell Holmes. We’re willing to keep working  for as long as it takes to do it.

Disken plans to keep training “to whenever.” She cultivates her own fitness daily with runs and hikes. She is a churchgoer and participates in a Mastermind group. “I am always open to means to self-improvement,” she says. “It keeps you fresh and focused on the good in life.”

Barbos is fulfilled with caretaking and a business full of meaning. “Many people don’t understand eldercare. You learn so much from seniors. They all bring something special to others.”

“I make a comfortable living,” she explains, “and I put most of my earnings back into the homes. I have put two kids through college, and now my daughter works with me to manage the Fountain Hills residence. I am so happy she finds meaning in the eldercare as well.”

We know our clients’ priorities.

Disken’s days usually start before the crack of dawn with client trainings at 5 a.m., and often end at 6:30 p.m. Her clients need to fit in exercise before and after work. “I have to meet them whenever they’re available,” she says. “They are busy people.”

She asks them to pursue fitness as a priority in their lives, and tells them, “There are no excuses for not pursuing health as a top priority throughout life. My goal is to instill in them a love of exercise and what it contributes to overall well-being.”

Howington adds that her clients’ number one priority is creating a better life through their next career move, or maximizing their current job situation. Her motto to them is “Outplacement Excellence. Custom Approach. Individualized Attention. Every time.”

To even suggest that aging is equivalent to slowing down is to ignore baby boomer employment trends and the number who are creating their “next act” by starting businesses. Boomers are becoming one of the world’s largest demographic groups, and if they have their way, they’ll be one of the most successful populations in history as well.

Di Chapman is the coauthor of “How Smart People Sabotage Their Job Search” on Amazon, and a business and health writer who writes for CBS Local Atlanta, Examner.com, numerous blogs and private clients. She has written four books and countless articles for publication.

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