The Author

Site search



Main menu:

H.E.L.P. Links


Top Posts

Encore Summit

Author: Helen Dennis, Specialist on Aging

Dear Readers,

I recently attended an extraordinary “age event.”   It was entitled “Encore 2011: Shaping the Future of the Encore Movement,” sponsored by Civic Ventures, a San Francisco think tank on boomers, work and social purpose held in Sausalito.

Part of the meeting was a celebration of the Purpose Prize winners, an award given to five individuals 60 and older who have made significant contributions to resolve a societal problem.  The winners bring their vision, talent and passion to make our world a better place.  Their mission is their second career.  Civic Ventures calls it their Encore Career – a combination of purpose, passion and a paycheck.  The event was sponsored by Atlantic Philanthropies, the John Templeton Foundation and AARP with each Purpose Prize winner receiving $100,000.

And additional 20 individuals won the 2011 Purpose Prize Fellows award at $10,000.

Journalist Jane Pauley, a Purpose Prize judge, chaired the event filling in for Sherry Lansing whose plane was deterred because of our wind storm.  Lansing is chair of the Purpose Prize judges, CEO of the Sherry Lansing Foundation and former chair of the Paramount Motion Picture Group.

Pauley said that the Purpose Prize “honors a new kind of American treasure that brings new solutions to old problems.  These winners challenge the myth that hope, passion and creativity diminish with age.”   She added, “The 50+ is the nation’s only growing natural resource.”

Retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor also addressed the group and noted she is busier now than when she was on the court.

And she is busy with a fascinating encore career.  Justice O’Conner became distressed as the Court was being heavily criticized.  She asked herself why and concluded it was due to a lack of education and understanding among the critics.  That ignorance did not only apply to the Supreme Court; it applied to “those other branches,” she said with a smile, meaning the executive and judicial branches.

She discovered that only half of public schools are required to offer a course on civics.  “With ignorance, there is less trust in government,” she said.  And “Our children are sitting in front of a screen on average of 40 hours a week.”

What did she do?  She founded iCivics, a video game-education project to teach children civics that will inspire them to be active participants in U.S. democracy.  See  It’s free and 3 million children have used it.

That takes us to the Purpose Prize winners.  Their achievements range from a screen writer transforming the care of thousands of orphans in China to a serial entrepreneur helping people launch startups that are revitalizing Detroit.  There was the professor who eased the transitions of thousands of African immigrants and refugees to the U.S. and the architect who challenged entire industries to do more to reduce carbon emissions.

A Purpose Prize winner who was a homemaker shared her story.  After her husband died, Nancy Sanford Hughes volunteered to cook for a 120-member medical mission in Guatemala.  Thousands of people came to see the doctors each day.  Most had chronic coughs, respiratory infections and horrible burns – all stemming from open fires in unventilated homes or from carrying firewood.  She said, “Women would be cooking indoors with a baby on their back and on their front, inhaling the fumes.  At age 68, she created StoveTeam International.  Since 2008 she helped local entrepreneurs establish six factories that manufactured and sold affordable and fuel-efficient stoves.  They have replaced the open cooking fire in more than 15,000 homes across Central America, reaching 90,000 people.

At lunch I sat next to Dr. Kathleen Taylor a Purpose Prize fellow and retired gynecologist.  In 2003 she travelled on a medical mission to Honduras and saw more cases of cervical cancer than she did in 25 years of practice.    And she did something about it.  She and Pat Sax co-founded Prevention International:  No Cervical Cancer.  She trains medical personnel in developing countries how to see and treat – the same day – cervical cancer.   Her work is found in seven countries on three continents touching 50,000 women.

In a time where we read about less than wonderful news, we need to remember a great deal of good occurs each day by individuals making a difference.   The Purpose Prize winners and fellows are anYou +1’d this publicly. Undo inspiration.

Copyright 2011 Helen Dennis. All rights reserved.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Write a comment