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Are These the Next Influencers? More From Encore Public Voices Fellows

Stria Staff October 22, 2018

This fellowship seeks to elevate new, diverse leaders speaking out on the “encore” years.

Encore.org recently announced its first class for the Encore Public Voices Fellowship, a joint effort with the Op-Ed Project. This new program is designed to encourage more meaningful, public conversation about aging.

So are these the next influencers in our field? Stria asked the fellows to share a little about what they hoped to accomplish as part of the program. We’ve published their responses in two parts. Read part one here.

What difference do you hope to make in our aging society?

Brandon Ross

There’s a certain age, which typically starts receiving a blind eye by our society. I want people to start opening their eyes and recognizing the wisdom Older Persons have to contribute to the world.

Mick Smyer
Professor of Psychology & Founder of Graying Green: Climate Action for an Aging World

I aim to change the conversation about climate issues, moving us, but especially older adults, from climate avoidance to climate action to climate habit. It’s time to stop our science denial when it comes to climate change– in this case, the social science of behavior change. We know how to get people more involved but we haven’t focused on mobilizing older adults. Older adults are not solely potential victims of climate change. We are also potential leaders of climate action. We have time and talent, and we know how to get things done. We also understand that time is short, for ourselves and for the people and places we care about. A healthy planet is our legacy: pass it on.

Joy Zhang
Co-founder of Mon Ami

Social isolation is as harmful as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Families who care for loved ones are desperate to address social and emotional needs, but because of time, distance, or a lack of solutions in the market, many are currently unable to. My co-founder Madeline and I want to make it possible, and really easy, for families to find the social and emotional help they’re looking for. As a former youth volunteer in dementia and hospice, I know firsthand the energy and spirit that young people have to work with older adults, and we want to create opportunities for young people to offer companionship to families who crave it most.

Odile Robotti
CEO of Learning Edge

I run a management training and HR consultancy, which brings me in close contact with for profit and not-for-profit organizations, people who work for them and who manage them. I think I can contribute best by convincing organizations to promote encore careers, to support a new narrative on younger-olds (i.e. people up to 80 years of age), to combat ageism and to facilitate intergenerational collaboration. Organizations can become great platforms for promoting encore careers because they are in charge of people in the critical window in which the decision of what to do after-work takes place. Moreover, they have competencies on career management (or have access to them) and are used to having career and professional/personal development conversations with their employees. Facilitating a transition to encore careers should be part of their CSR initiatives and an element of their employer-branding. Encore careers are also pivotal in promoting a modern and generative view of aging, so they are instrumental in changing the narrative.

Atalaya Sergi
Vice President of Strategic Partnerships & Programming, Jumpstart for Young Children

I hope to shift people’s thinking about aging. Too often, we think of older adults in terms of what has been lost and what they can no longer give. We have all types of negative assumptions and associations when it comes to older adults. This stance is sidelining a growing and valuable segment of our population. I want to shift our thinking to embrace aging and older adults. I want us to see older adults as contributors to the conversation, as problem solvers, as answers to our prayers. I have experienced the impact they can have in the education and the non-profit space, I know firsthand the difference they can make. Older adults have hard-earned wisdom and a unique perspective that they are eager to share. The question is, will we accept what they have to offer and be better for it or squander this invaluable resource?

Judy Cockerton
Nonprofit Leader and Social Entrepreneur

I hope to inspire older Americans to consider the many ways that they can live lives of meaning and purpose during their encore careers by sharing the stories of elders living in our intergenerational Treehouse Communities where families adopting children from foster care live next door to elders (ages 55+) who share their talents, wisdom and time with neighbors of all ages. I also hope to be an example for my peers!

Selena Sermeno

The degree of traumatization imposed on children in today’s world is dumbfounding. From forced separations of immigrant parents and children in the US, to mass shootings, and children living in displaced circumstances, there seems to be no end to the direct humiliation of youth. The pain of uproot carries within it implicit, invisible and disenfranchised grief, impacting children and adults. The scientific impact of trauma on every aspect of child development has been highly documented. I hope to bring the science to the dinner table and to highlight the role which intergenerational relationships have on mitigating the devastating impact of trauma.

Julianne Taaffe

Using my experience bringing and winning a lawsuit against age discrimination in the workplace, I want to raise my voice against this common yet nearly invisible form of discrimination. By calling greater attention to its signs and causes, we can demonstrate that age discrimination is real and is having disastrous economic, social, psychological and health consequences on individuals and their families in all age cohorts in this country, especially on women, and on women of color in particular.


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