“It’s never too late to be what you might have been.” George Elliot
The infamous American generation born between 1946 and 1964 aren’t exactly known for maintaining status quo. A product of a bonafide baby boom following the end of World War II, at 76 million-strong, their births presented such an unprecedented population surge in America that they’ve been altering the cultural landscape ever since.
As they first crowded classrooms and then the workplace, their sheer volume caused inevitable change to every phase of life they encountered. Life soon revealed there were advantages and challenges to having size on your side. Career advancement was met with fierce competition, as so many vied for the same job, but some historians credit that very need for an edge in the environment as a catalyst for a time of incredible innovation and prosperity.
While unexpected economic upheaval and the massive implications of automation would force boomers to redefine the very nature of work in America, they also altered social norms to an enormous extent. The first generation to grow up with television as a central part of their lives, they were also the first to be bombarded with advertising – and some say, its subliminal effects. Economic figures report unseen jumps in consumer spending, notions of the family unit began to change, and life in America became almost unrecognizable.
It makes sense then, that as their labyrinthine journey continues, and the first wave of the generation greet their 70s, that the traditional idea of retirement would be questioned and redefined too.
Even the names don’t seem to fit – “elder,” “senior citizen,” even “baby boomer” itself seems all wrong. The generation of change-agents reveal themselves as far more interesting and powerful than those names suggest. Besides, the changes they’ve created are really just beginning, as these rebels are predicted to live longer than any generation in our history with many working way past retirement age – by choice, not necessity.
In all actuality, they have the potential to forever change the American perception of aging, suggesting a new name for boomers – the “trail blazers.”
That’s exactly how they’re seen by the Administration for Community Living, as their annual leadership of Older American’s Month (OAM) in May is celebrated in 2016 with the theme, Blaze a Trail.
Blaze a Trail celebrates the growing and increasingly vital part older Americans play in our country, highlighting their varied and deeply rooted roles in local communities, and their large influence on the nation’s economy, politics, and the arts. From 69-year-old NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, Jr. to 84-year-old actress Rita Moreno to 83-year-old Ruth Bader Ginsberg, who took her seat as a Supreme Court Justice at age 60, older adults are blazing trails in all aspects of American life, with some trailblazers rising to the task of unexpected events in life and others reinventing themselves entirely. Lovingly referred to as Second Acts, personal reinvention and the pursuit of lifelong dreams are being embraced by more trailblazers everyday as they open themselves to new work and new passions, creating a positive impact on the lives of people of all ages.
OPERATION REINVENTION: Follow your passion, use your skills
- Pursue a second career offering personal and financial reward. It’s time to pursue your dreams. What were you good at as a child? Why not at least try it?
- Embrace the arts to express yourself. Learn to paint, take dance classes, maybe even try stand-up comedy. To become an artist, kiss your comfort zone goodbye.
- Keep learning and growing. Learn a language, enroll in a computer class or take that bucket list trip. Challenging yourself keeps you happy, healthy & connected.
- Use your vast experience to serve others. Volunteers help keep their local community thriving – and even alive. Find opportunities in your area at Serve.Gov/
One trailblazer, Taylor Overbey, welcomed a new career, a new baby and a new artistic venture rendering delightful success when he least expected it – all after the age of 50. After owning a successful window business in California for 16 years while pursuing his art on the side, at age 53 Overbey took a risk, took a job in Michigan that proved a disaster, and not long after discovered his wife was – surprise! – pregnant.
“When I found out Sophia was coming, I was doing odd jobs, and knew I had to find something secure to ensure she was well provided for,” he explains. “Instead of taking any old job I could find, I took a chance and went back to school for my dream degree – a master’s in digital media. As it turns out, I now teach at that very Institute and miraculously, I found my real calling when I took an elective in children’s book illustration. Serendipity got my first book in front of a publisher who signed me and have since agreed to publish my second one.”
Written as a humor-filled fable about the value of sharing, Overbey says he wrote the book for his daughter, who was three at the time and learning the skill herself.
Overbey’s first book, published in his 50s, was inspired by his young daughter.
“It’s definitely unexpected that I’m raising a small child as I approach 60,” he admits. “I’ve got a young family when most people my age have grandkids. And starting a new career at the typical retirement age is unbelievable also. But it’s my dream job and she’s my dream baby, and they’re two twists of fate I wouldn’t trade for the world.”
See the book trailer for Overbey’s “The I-Wants and the Gimmies” here & learn more about his illustration work at Taylor-O-Studios.com. If you’re blazing your own trail, we’d love to hear about it – email your story to firstname.lastname@example.org.