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Are These the Next Influential Voices of Aging?

Stria Staff October 15, 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.

“We need a new story about the intersection of longer lives, social change and the intergenerational opportunity,” said Marci Alboher, Encore.org’s vice president of strategic communications. “This dynamic, diverse group of thought leaders focusing on the second half of life are the new voices we need to tell it.”

The 20 public voices fellowship participants represent 10 states, professional fields ranging from academia, to law, to psychology, and a range from ages 30 to 67. They include some familiar names in longevity market, like Sarita Gupta, as well as some newcomers.

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’ll publish their responses this week and next. Keep an eye out for these new voices. We will be following with interest.

What difference do you hope to make in our aging society through the Public Voices Fellowship?

Brenda Atchison
Activist & Social Entrepreneur

Aging has no color, no gender and no place of origin. Often perceived as outside the social mainstream, older adults are enterprising, creative and productive contributors to society. We support self, family and community. Yet increasingly, only the financially well-off can afford to grow old. The rest struggle and worry about their future.

In my work, I focus on what we can do to live our best lives, especially in underserved communities. I want to help open pathways to embrace aging as a vital component of living. My goal is to work with a group of diverse people who can inspire, educate, listen, collaborate and inform. The public narrative on aging must be inclusive of all voices. The Encore Fellowship will help me refine and amplify my message and join other voices who embrace aging.

Ayele Shakur
CEO of BUILD.org

I want to turn this notion of “aging gracefully” completely on its head. We need to age boldly and vibrantly, recognizing the wealth that our life experiences bring, and the power we have to change the world. I’m thrilled to be an Encore Public Voices Fellow because for me, going from practitioner to thought leader IS my encore—the next chapter – in my life’s journey. And I’m happy to share this new adventure with other amazing thought leaders in the fellowship. My great grandmother lived to be 104 years young, and her secret to longevity was laughter, family, and an occasional beer. Cheers to those who know how to celebrate life.

Sylvia Brown
Donor Advisor and Educator

Last year, 51 million members of the “Encore Generation” made charitable donations. Indeed, Boomers are America’s most philanthropic generation, expected to give $6.6 billion in cash and $1.4 trillion in volunteer services over the next 20 years. Yet most (85%) spend less than five minutes a week researching before giving, often donating with their heart but forgetting to engage their head. Ultra high net worth individuals have access to the philanthropy advisory services of private banks or consultants; but little low cost education is available to those who must make their own charitable decisions.

My goal is to inspire all donors to be more thoughtful and strategic. I provide guidance on how to select a cause (identifying where even a small donation can make a difference), to choose a non-profit (and how to engage with it), and to measure impact (even when there are no metrics).

Ryan Frederick
Founder, SmartLiving 360

Too many view aging as a bad thing for us as individuals and our society. We even created an industry that segregates people by age as if to set a societal expectation that when you reach a certain age you are meant to retire, disappear and no longer be relevant.

This narrative must be shattered. The Age of Longevity brings an opportunity to live longer, healthier lives, but how and to what end? The quality of our extra years is largely determined by our life choices and options available to us to truly thrive. We need more inspiration. We need more options.

I seek to be a vision caster and disruptor that provides a new narrative and host of solutions—including age-integrated housing—for many of us to not just live longer, not just live healthier, but truly thrive in the Age of Longevity.

Marlon A. Smith
University Educator and Community Development Professional

It is my desire to show the interconnectedness of generations in our aging society. Each generation is tied to each other in this “inescapable chain of mutuality and interconnectedness”. The attempt to break these bonds not only relinquish us of our hopes and aspirations, but also divides us along superficial differences and experiences. Therefore, for me, I hope to show how the wisdom of our elders in society breathes hope and energy around the challenges that younger generations must face. The bonds connect us to movements of the past, while offering us a roadmap for the future.

Linda Aristondo

There are approximately 100,000 retired attorneys, the 2017 US Bureau of the Labor Statistics reports. I believe that a substantial percentage are interested in using their many years of legal experience in service of others. There is a sizable number of encoring minority attorneys, especially those with language skills, desirous to represent undocumented immigrants and their families, unaccompanied minors, and homeless and poor people within the nonprofit legal services organization space; not as pro-bono volunteers, as but as full-on legal staff. 

There is no lack of indigent people needing legal representation and an abundance of retired attorneys. However, nonprofit legal services organizations have not yet seen us as valuable resources. I want to explore the creation of encoring attorney fellowships, with salaries, to encourage the nonprofit legal services space to engage us as full members of their legal team.

Cal J. Halvorsen
Assistant Professor of Social Work at Boston College

I envision a society in which all members have the opportunity to grow old as vibrantly as possible and, importantly, who see service to others as a fundamental human responsibility. My scholarship examines issues related to aging, work, and social purpose, with emphasis on self-employment, entrepreneurship, social entrepreneurship, and encore careers. I strive to raise awareness about the economic difficulties facing older Americans while uncovering, documenting, and replicating key bright spots in our economy. As a social work educator, I also aim to train future social workers, whether they are focused on older adults or not, who understand the role that the social work profession plays in helping people to thrive throughout the life course. This work is not only important for older adults now, but for me and my siblings, friends, and other older adults to come.

Karen D. Lincoln
Associate Professor

Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth-leading cause of death among adults in the United States, but it is the fourth-leading cause of death for African Americans. I would like to rewrite the story of millions of African American families who are dealing with this disease. Unlike the current story, the new story would guarantee equal access to Alzheimer’s education, diagnosis, and treatment. African Americans would not have the highest risk, prevalence, and mortality rates from this disease. In this new and improved story, African Americans would be detected early so that they could plan and prepare for an otherwise unimaginable future. Yes, that is how I would change society. I will change the story.


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