Does Your Career Do Something More?


What happens when your midlife career ends but you want to continue working and making a difference?

Right now, millions of baby boomers are helping to invent a new stage of work, crafting encore careers that combine not only continued income but the chance to do work that means something beyond themselves.

Sound familiar? Doing work that means something more is in the DNA of Care2 members. From taking small actions every day, to volunteering time, to building careers around the ideals of social justice, people are using their experience and passion every day to make the world a better place.

For six years, The Purpose Prize has been rewarding people who combine their passion and experience for social good. Each year, five people over 60 win $100,000 each for extraordinary contributions in their encore years.

Past winners have helped to solve a wide variety of problems – from the shortage of search dogs to the need for cleaner energy, from the elimination of arts in our schools to the need for dependable cars to help the rural poor get to their jobs.

In 2011, the five winners included:

*A San Francisco screenwriter who adopted two daughters from China in her 50s, then found a way to partner with the Chinese government to transform the care of 800,000 orphans there, 95 percent of whom are girls.

*A serial entrepreneur who has worked to revitalize Detroit’s economy by leading a business incubator to help new businesses grow.

*An Oregon woman who fights a top killer of children in developing nations by producing and distributing low-cost, safe, fuel-efficient cookstoves in Latin America.

*A woman in Washington, D.C., who is working to ease the transitions of thousands of African immigrants and refugees.

*A Santa Fe, N.M., architect challenging the building sector – perhaps the largest contributor of greenhouse gases – to improve energy efficiency and reduce emissions.

Jenny Bowen, the Bay Area screenwriter, was spurred to action when she saw a photo in The New York Times of a neglected girl in a Chinese welfare institution. Within 18 months she and her husband had adopted a 20-month-old girl named Maya from Guangzhou, China. Maya couldn’t walk or talk, but after a year of loving care, she was a happy, healthy child. In 1998, Bowen launched Half the Sky Foundation to radically change the way China cares for its 800,000 orphans. Today the organization operates in 51 Chinese cities, providing infant care, preschool programs, free medical services for disabled children and financial support for foster families caring for AIDS orphans. So far, the group has improved care for more than 60,000 children.

You can read more about the other 2011 Purpose Prize winners at

As more baby boomers reach what would traditionally be considered “retirement age,” we’ll see more people looking to stay involved in the world and start second, (or third) careers that offer both a paycheck far and a chance to make the world a better place.

After all, this is a generation that marched on Washington for civil rights and ended an unjust war. This is a generation that still fights for a fairer economy, better schools and health care for all who need it. This is a generation that cares about leaving the world a better place than they found it.

The deadline for submitting nominations for this years prize is March 30th. Know someone you think would make a great candidate for The Purpose Prize? Submit a nomination here.


Related Stories:

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A New Plan for Medicare?

Blame the Boomers? They Have the Highest Carbon Footprint


Photo: 2011 Purpose Prize winner Jenny Bowen


Tim C.
Tim C5 years ago


Danuta Watola
Danuta W5 years ago

very interesting article

Abbe A.
Azaima A6 years ago


KS Goh
KS Goh6 years ago

Thanks for the article.

J.L. A.
JL A6 years ago

great role models!

Tim C.
Tim C6 years ago


Sam Richardson

These are such beautiful, heart-warming stories that we do not hear often enough.

I'm so glad these people are doing such great things to help those less fortunate and make the world a better place :)

Laurie D.
Laurie D6 years ago

I love the idea of making a difference as I age but truly, until I get to retire again, I am most concerned with just making a living! I volunteer and do other "helping" projects, but this isn't income producing OR world shaking... Maybe later in life!

Jamie Clemons
Jamie Clemons6 years ago

most people are just lucky to have any kind of a job and survive.

Eileen W.
Eileen W6 years ago

I saw some of these enterprises on TED talks. Wonderful to see so many people making such a huge difference. I agree with No B...just making a difference in our own lives has a spin-off and can make us far happier too. I bought a flock of ducks for a poor family today. It didn't cost me much financially at all, but it's great to know that I can do something for someone and that their baby ducklings will be passed on to another family. The thought of it has made my day too and put a huge grin on my face. :)