Fox Cities baby boomers enjoy encore careers
Beginning January 1, 2011, every single day more than 10,000 baby boomers will reach the age of 65, and this will continue every day for the next 19 years.
It is no secret that the majority of the nation’s 78 million boomers plan to work longer than previous generations. Many want to adjust their hours and environment, take advantage of flexible schedules or plan to telecommute. Others wish to explore new jobs, referred to as encore careers, which provide personal growth, social stimulation and the added benefit of a paycheck.
A 2008 MetLife Foundation survey estimated between six and nine percent of Americans ages 44 to 70 are already in their encore careers and the Fox Cities is home to many of them. FOX CITIES Magazine spoke to a few boomers about the reasons they chose a new career the second time around.
Flexing All the Muscles
In the last century, medical advances have increased the average life span significantly. For baby boomers, “aging well” is important and includes a strong body and mind, a healthy lifestyle and a positive outlook on the second half of life.
“I think staying active is important for my own sake of health and wellness,” says Phyllis Gillespie, 66, of Appleton. “My personality is to keep learning and to stay in social circles filled with vibrant people.”
At the age of 60, Gillespie turned her love of design, fabric and knitting into an encore career after she retired from her first career in special education with the Appleton Area School District.
“After 35 years, it was time to do other things and let new people bring their ideas in while I moved onto something else,” says Gillespie, who currently owns Iris Knitting Shop in Appleton.
She feels the storefront venue allows her to serve her customers and to interface with the community.
“I certainly enjoy the products, color and design, but just as important to me is the ability to learn, gain and sharpen skills and to contribute to the community,” Gillespie says.
She feels the biggest benefit to having an encore career is that it keeps her moving.
“I’m busy doing things in the store and enjoy solving problems,” says Gillespie, who walks two miles every day for added physical exercise.
Gillespie always knew that she would explore another career later in life.
“I come from a ripe old family,” says Gillespie, whose mother recently passed away at the age of 98. “Forty years of retirement is a long time. If it weren’t this, it would be something else.”
Altering the Course
Baby boomers are changing the realities of the workplace. Those that have had successful careers want to use their industry knowledge and experience and adjust their hours or take advantage of flexible schedules.
At the age of 62 with nearly 40 years in the broadcast industry, R. Perry Kidder retired as president and general manager of WFRV-TV in Green Bay on June 30, 2010. His passion for the industry motivated him to continue in a career that allows him to fit in the occasional round of golf or spend the afternoon with his grandchildren.
“I can’t just flip the switch off,” Kidder says. “It doesn’t work that way for me.”
Days after leaving WFRV-TV, Kidder assumed the role as president of Kidder Communications, an advertising, marketing and consulting firm in Sherwood, which has been operated by his wife, Donna, since 1996.
“I had a lot of people I knew tell me that if I ever decided to hang it up, we should talk,” Kidder says.
He believes that it is smart for baby boomers reaching retirement age to alter the course, but not to stop what they have done for so many years.
“These are things that I am deeply involved in and care about,” Kidder says. “I can’t just walk away.”
Kidder identifies that staying relevant and current are challenges that he and fellow baby boomers will face in their encore careers. He will be careful not to overplay the value of his 40 years of experience when speaking to younger generations.
He plans to devote more time to the community by serving on the boards of the Green Bay Packer Hall of Fame, Green Bay Packer 65 Roses and Educational Television Productions of Northeast Wisconsin. In 2009, he was inducted into the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association Hall of Fame and will stay active in this organization.
“Learning is one of the most invigorating things. I have a lot to learn yet,” Kidder says. “I can’t live off of past experiences.”
Believing in Something Bigger
When exploring options for an encore career, many baby boomers search for a position that will give the second half of life personal meaning and purpose.
After retiring at the age of 62, Greg Otis’ encore career as the ambassador coordinator for the Appleton Downtown, Inc. (ADI) has given him with the opportunity to be part of something in which he believes.
“I work for ADI because I believe in our city,” Otis says. “If you can use whatever monies or talent you have to positively impact the quality of life in your community, you have to do it.”
Most of Otis’ time with ADI is spent on community events. He is actively involved in Appleton’s parades and downtown celebrations such as Oktoberfest, Junteenth and the Heid Summer Concert Series.
“All of the events I am involved with contribute to the quality of life we enjoy in Appleton,” says Otis, who joined the Flag Day committee when his father was chairman and has now gotten his son and daughter involved.
Prior to joining ADI, Otis spent 35 years in the restaurant and bar business, owning and operating several establishments across the Fox Valley.
“After I suffered a heart attack, I knew I would have to take it easy,” he says.
For Otis, taking it easy did not include watching daytime television and taking afternoon naps.
“Being busy is the key,” he says. “Your physical, psychological and emotional well-being is at stake.”
Getting a paycheck for doing something you are passionate about is another benefit of an encore career.
“I would be doing this anyway, but now I am getting paid for it,” says Otis, who hopes to be an inspiration to his children the same way his “87-year-young” mother has been to him.
Balancing the Brain
Some baby boomers search for encore careers where they can make a difference by helping others in a capacity that is meaningful to them.
Meg Kubisch of Neenah retired in January 2010 after working in human resources since 1989. With her husband, David, the couple owns a mental wellness business named Brain Training of the Fox Valley.
“After I hit 50, I wanted to do things that were personal and meaningful,” she says. “In the corporate world, I spent my time managing 250 to 300 people and now I have the opportunity to work one-on-one.”
By using a process called Brainwave Optimization with RTB™, Kubisch has helped adults battling depression, anxiety and addiction as well as children who struggle with learning disabilities.
“We bring the brain back to balance by harmonizing brain waves,” she says.
The Kubisches opened the business just seven months into Meg’s retirement in July 2010. It operates out of the their home where they have created a sanctuary-like environment that is extremely quiet, darkened and private.
Balance is something Kubish believes is also the key to a successful encore career.
“I chose to leave the corporate world because I couldn’t balance my own life,” Kubisch says. “The beauty of my current job is that I can work one week or three weeks and I can be balanced.”
Kubisch also believes baby boomers should be physically stimulated and surround themselves with others who lead healthy lifestyles.
“I’ve always been an athlete and know that at some point, my body will not be able to do physical activity,” says Kubisch, an avid swimmer, biker and skier. “I do it because I still can!”
In the future, Kubisch is also considering pursuing a master’s degree in wellness.
“The second time around you have more freedom to express your creativity,” Kubisch says. “It’s all about being real.”
—By Dana Baumgart