65, Beaufort, S.C.
for the South Carolina Coastal
Worked for a tele-
communications company for
33 years, the last 16 as a Wash-
ington lobbyist. Then he retired
to South Carolina to relax and
enjoy nature. Seven years after
retiring, he found his encore
job—advocating for conserva-
“I think we all need
to do more with conservation.”
Besides, “it’s fun.”
Boomers are the most self-centered, self-seeking,
self-interested, self-absorbed, self-indulgent, self-
aggrandizing generation in American history,” Be-
gala wrote in
in 2000. “At nearly every criti-
cal juncture, they have preferred the present to the
future; they’ve put themselves ahead of their parents,
ahead of their country, ahead of their children—ahead
of our future.”
Begala, who will turn 50 this year, is hardly alone in
calling out boomers. From the “greatest generation”
to “millennials,” few besides boomers stick up for the
77 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964.
Boomers get the blame for everything from disco to
the stock market collapse, from global warming to
Boomers are a large and diverse group, so it’s hard
to generalize, but let’s just stipulate that they haven’t
embraced civic engagement the way they have Botox
The past doesn’t predict the future, of course. As
the first wave of boomers hits 65 this year, they have,
in the words of Bruce Springsteen, “one last chance
to make it real.” Or maybe even more than one.
Someone turning 65 this year can expect to live to 83,
and many will see their 90s. Boomers still have time to
reclaim their idealism and redeem themselves in their
own eyes and perhaps the eyes of the world.
Make a difference
Get out there and volunteer.
Whatever your interest, there’s an organization eager
for your help. Even better, nonprofits are changing the
way they operate to appeal more to boomers.
“If you have a passion, we have a purpose and a
program for you,” said Erwin Tan, M.D., director of
Senior Corps, a program of the federal Corporation
for National and Community Service. Senior Corps
recently lowered its age from 60 to 55 to draw more
boomers as senior companions, who help older adults
with shopping visits and medical appointments; as
foster grandparents who mentor youth; and as volun-
teers at Coming of Age, which supports social service
programs and conducts workshops on job and volun-
“Boomers are the healthiest, best-educated genera-
tion to transition through middle age to retirement,”
There’s an added appeal to self-interest.
The Edward M. Kennedy Serve America
Act expands opportunities for boomers to
participate in AmeriCorps and provides
a scholarship benefit that can be used by
the volunteer or given to a child or grand-
child. AARP also launched Create The-
Good.org to facilitate volunteering.
Coming of Age used to be called the
Retired Senior Volunteer Program. Me-
gan McCarthy, who ran RSVP in San
Francisco, said every word—retired, se-
nior and volunteer—turned o; boomers.
They weren’t volunteering.
“We’re seeing a change in the conversa-
tion about retirement,” said Andrea Tay-
lor, director of training for Temple Uni-
versity’s Intergenerational Center, which
includes the Coming of Age program.
Taylor, now 64, said she plans to con-
tinue working. “We all do!” she declared
with a laugh.
Find an encore
sonal or economic—not infrequently up-
end our work, but boomers increasingly
find rewarding second acts. “Encore ca-
PETER FRANK EDWARDS/REDUX
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