Marc Freedman, founder of Civic Ventures’ most recent book, “The Big Shift: Navigating the New Stage Beyond Midlife,” deals with the newly defined phase of life between midlife and old age. He calls it the encore phase, rejecting “young old” and “working retired” labels as unsatisfactory and inaccurate.
My side note: Interestingly, another phase of life has been identified in relatively recent years as well between adolescence and adulthood, but it is not referred to in the book. It is known either as emerging adulthood or enduring adolescence. I mention it because together the two phases illustrate how the lifecycle is stretching out not only in years, but also diversifying, presenting complexities, challenges and opportunities we all need to understand. The big shift is even shiftier than Marc Freedman contemplates.
But back to his focus on the post-midlife shift. Freedman does an excellent job of describing the oxymoronic nature of this stage in great detail: “A World Out of Whack,” as one of the chapters is titled…”individuals are thrown into an identity chasm”… “myth of Boomer reinvention.” Freedman sees the “reinvention fantasy” as part of the problem. He sees the “obsolescence of much of what’s accepted as hard reality by many economists and demographers of today.”
Currently, social entrepreneur Freedman says,” the transition from midlife to this new encore stage is a do-it-yourself project with little guidance, few role models, and scarce resources.” Imagine the windfall of talent that could result, he says, helping carry us toward a new generation of solutions for growing problems in areas like education, the environment and health care.
Freedman advocates for a new map of life and how to navigate it. Boomers will not deal with their 60s and 70s as generations before, both given their fitness and their mindsets. He is optimistic that this encore stage can be characterized by “purpose, contribution, and commitment, particularly to the well being of future generations.” (I am sure the skeptical Gen Xers and Yers will be glad to see that happen.)
Freedman lays out 10 possibilities for translating opportunity to large-scale fruition. The missing piece is where the funding and institutional fortitude to make it a reality will come from. He is hoping his imaginative and inspirational ideas will attract the attention and resources.
Marc Freedman is not only an important and articulate voice, he is a doer. And with a fortunate alignment of the stars and a great deal of effort, it might happen.
Phyllis Weiss Haserot www.pdcounsel.com