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What’s an “encore adult?” It’s a term meaning someone between middle age and old age.
And as our population lives longer, more and more adults at this stage are asking, “What’s next?” “What am I passionate about?” and “How can I find more meaning?”
Two California Leading Age members, Northern California Presbyterian Homes and Services (NCPHS) in San Francisco, and the Motion Picture and Television Fund (MPTF) in Los Angeles, are helping “encore adults” and others answer those questions. Each is playing a major role in bringing the Coming of Age initiative to their community.
Coming of Age began in Philadelphia ten years ago.
In each of the 9 communities where it has local initiatives, those initiatives help people 50+ figure out next steps and find compelling ways to connect and contribute to their communities; Coming of Age also trains nonprofit professionals in how to more effectively engage “encore” and other older adults.
“We needed to refresh what we were doing,” says Ramona Davies, NCPHS director of community services. “We needed something more holistic, something that involved people not just as volunteers but in helping them figure out where they were going in this next phase of life.”
Infusing Coming of Age programs into their work, NPHS helped made their volunteer program more relevant and contemporary. They then asked local PBS/NPR station KQED to come on board as the Coming of Age Bay Area media partner, which greatly enhanced their work’s visibility.
To help people 50+ consider next steps, Coming of Age Bay Area frequently presents the highly interactive four session workshop series, Explore Your Future.
The initiative has a Talent Coach to guide Explore Your Future participants into work and volunteer roles, and often present the “The Learning Lab” that teaches nonprofits who people 50+ are today and how to craft volunteer opportunities that fuse older adults’ passions with organizations’ missions. NCPHS has over a 62 years experience in providing residential communities education services for older adults in the Bay Area and 15 years experience in fostering community engagement. It recently also has affiliated with and begun managing senior centers in multi-ethnic San Francisco neighborhoods.
Davies sees this latest development as a potential for more Coming of Age activities.
The programming may been designed with “encore adults” in mind, but she says, “Why shouldn’t 80 and 90 year-olds be thinking about what comes next in their lives? Exploring your future and community engagement make sense at every age!”
Renee Feiger, LCSW, project manager of the organization’s Elder Connection program, approached her organization about being the champion that would spearhead the effort to bring the initiative to Southern California, on returning to home after hearing a Coming of Age presentation at the 2011 American Society on Aging National Conference.
MPTF, which offers healthcare and social services to those in the entertainment industry, blessed the idea, and Feiger soon was amassing the largest number of partners for any Coming of Age initiative in the country—20 and still counting!
She also was successful at realizing the development that has proven essential for a Coming of Age initiative to launch, identifying the “convening partner,” in this case Volunteer Los Angeles, the hub for volunteer activities in L. A. Feiger sees Coming of Age as especially appropriate for people in the entertainment industry.
“In film and TV, unfortunately, people can age out early. I think Coming of Age is perfect for them—helping them to find ‘an encore,’ meaning, and something important to do.”
Other popular Coming of Age programs that have or will soon be implemented by the 2 California initiatives include Conversations on the Journey, a program that uses a guide and video clips of national experts to trigger discussions on such topics as health and well-being and the role of elders; and fielding Make a BIG Difference Teams— teams of older adults based at community organizations addressing critical community needs.
For more information about Coming of Age, contact the initiative’s national director, Dick Goldberg at DGoldberg@ComingofAge.org.