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Embracing a Purpose and a Plan: Welcoming the Encore Years and Re-Envisioning the Idea of “Retirement”

The first-of-its-kind online course addressing the final stretch of life - when we readjust our life planning and expectations accordingly.

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Who is your idea designed for and how does it reimagine the end-of-life experience?

The course will be primarily designed for the millions of Baby Boomers – with lessons for Millennials – on how to plan for the “twilight years” of their lives - as Carl Jung referred to the final third of our lives. For Baby Boomers that “future” constitutes the present or the next few years. And to look at the Boomers’ profile today you see not just growing diversity but many being “sandwiched” between older parents and their own grown children as they struggle to address the needs of both.

We have a host of societal challenges to consider surrounding impending health and aging issues.  As a society, we are better at tackling some more than others and if truth be told, there is often a dislocation between the needs and aspirations of the aging population and the youth oriented culture in the United States and other Western democracies. 

Our intent and commitment on this project remains focused: with our partners we will develop solutions on how individuals and communities can implement a plan of action to prepare for the years ahead of the aging population.

Today, for the Baby Boomer generation, for economic, social and psychic reasons endeavoring to realign their lives and lifestyles is just as likely a philosophy and pursuit. Either way, if you are part of this generation, defining and embracing what comes next during the remaining course of your life, requires reflection, fact gathering, and discussion with those closest to you. So we are designing this course for individuals and communities – as an educational tool - to give them access to a free resource - information and expertise that will be shared digitally online and through a mobile app and through a podcast (all three, funding permitting).  

The online course/digital curriculum will be comprised of a series of comprehensive modules addressing specific, targeted subjects (in a series of four to five course “weeks”).  Each of these course modules will be in-depth productions and explorations of such issues as Lifestyle, Health Care, and Financial Planning and even beyond the primary subjects there will be numerous sub-modules that drill down on a variety of topics (with each topic being covered in a sufficiently comprehensive fashion that it essentially constitutes a course within itself.) For instance, “Lifestyle” will take an in-depth look at several components of this subject such as exercise and nutrition, living accommodations, community, social services, and spirituality.

The George Washington University proposes to create, in collaboration with a nationwide roster of university partners, a first-of-its-kind Online Course focusing on the many ways that the very concept of retirement – and end of life planning - is being reframed and the traditional rules of the game are being rewritten by several different generations represented by a population of some 200 million (Baby Boomers, Gen X, and Millennials). Everyone, after all, is aging.

Course Format

Although there are obviously many existing online resources related to late in life planning and the phase that was once known as “retirement,” this online initiative will create a novel educational resource that will provide information and advice on the fundamental issues facing the vast majority of the population, and it will be produced by a trusted academic institution with the contributions of well regarded and knowledgeable partners.

This course will also be different from a typical online (or on-campus) course in that it will focus on the key components of life planning and yet do so on a personal level that will allow participants to evaluate and consider their individual choices in areas such as housing, community, health care and social services, careers and working life, hobbies and entrepreneurship, nutrition, mental and physical conditioning, and so on.  Viewed as a whole, the modules are intended to help participants build a blueprint for mapping a life plan.

As part of the personalized components of the course, our technology team will create an App that translates the best advice from our experts into practice, providing tips and practical tools as a holistic guide to participants’ personal and financial well-being.

Thus, the online course (and app) will give participants the unbiased knowledge and tools that they need to help develop a strategic action plan for the years and decades ahead, decades that will present both challenges and opportunities like no other time in their lives.  

What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

Host a symposium at GW in early 2017 bringing together both individuals and organizations that have been, for a time, in key leadership positions with new thinkers and entrepreneurs, and others converted to the cause, who bring new ideas and perspectives to addressing the enormous issues surrounding the aging of America and the world. The people participating in the symposium, and the discussion, will help determine and shape the content of the online course.

What skills, input or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

GW is seeking partners to help develop and produce this online educational program series. During the next stage of development we are enlisting organizations – academic, institutional and corporate – that can contribute intellectually, philosophically, and financially to this project, which will include an online course, a mobile app and a podcast, and a symposia. In sum, we need dedicated individuals and groups to lend expertise and thoughtful contributions to help build a national community.

Tell us about your work experience:

I am currently the executive producer of the course, being developed by the George Washington University, with the working title: Welcoming the Encore Years and Re-Envisioning the Idea of “Retirement”

This idea emerged from

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