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Boomers are undertaking a 'second act' in life

Today is the day. It's a day not just to honor mothers, but to think about them differently. Let's think about fathers differently, too.

My encouragement to do this was triggered by reading an opinion piece in The Oregonian on Sunday, May 4. It spoke to aging trends in society and catalogued the remarkable assets present in "the boomer generation," reminding us that these folks (myself included) born after Jan. 1, 1946, bring a lot to the table, not just monetary assets but social and human capital.

If you are my age peer or older and are reading this, see it as a call to action. We have the opportunity to make a huge societal difference.

Boomers are the healthiest and best educated generation in history with, as the Oregonian described it, "deep career experience, unmatched personal networks and time to use them."

Let's stop referring to the exploding aging population as the "silver tsunami," implying imminent disaster. Let's think of all these aging-well people who have ridden the wave to their mid-60s as a resource of the highest order.

Start with the fact that "traditional retirements are a thing of the past." The newly retired boomers of today are doing it differently. They are "re-careering" in large numbers and are the largest age cohort starting new businesses — both in Oregon and nationally. Retirement is being re-thought and includes a focus on community and the contribution of time and talent in sometimes unexpected venues.

As illustration, go to www.encore.org, where you can meet "people with purpose and passion" who are undertaking their "second act" in life.

Meet Jenny Bowen, a retired filmmaker who wrote the book, "Wish You Happy Forever: What Chinese Orphans Taught Me About Moving Mountains." One orphanage at a time, she is transforming Chinese orphanages from "little more than holding pens to nurturing facilities that would pass muster in any developing nation."

Or meet Barbara Young, an immigrant nanny who turned herself into a mountain-moving advocate for domestic workers; and Carol Fennelly, who has developed innovative ways to use video-conferencing to support parental connection-making for federal prisoners.

Need more encouragement? You could go to www.aarp.org and drill down into "Life Reimagined for Work" to read stories told by retired individuals who have discovered a new calling. There is even an online card game that asks, "Are you doing what you love?" and shows you (one card at a time) how to find a "fit" for your many talents and interests.

Better than any website, just look outside your own front door and into the community where friends and neighbors are doing little and big things to give back to their communities — volunteering as foster grandparents or working in the kitchen at St. Vincent de Paul. Those retired volunteers are part of how we keep our libraries open and our children challenged in schools that are understaffed.

Even better yet — look in the mirror. Reach over your own shoulder and give yourself a pat on the back for what you are already doing. Then bump it up a little.

Sharon Johnson is a retired Oregon State University associate professor emeritus. Reach her at Sharon@hmj.com.