- Associated Press - Monday, July 31, 2017

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Approaching the end of a long career in employment law, 60-year-old Corrie Lapinsky is eager to transition to something more personally meaningful.

“I’ve never really thought of retirement as the previous generation did: Retire and go play,” she said.

For several years, she has kicked around different ideas, from starting a business with a friend to finding a role with a nonprofit. But identifying the next phase of her work life has proved elusive.

So this fall, she’s going back to college.

Lapinsky is the first fellow accepted to the University of Minnesota Advanced Careers (UMAC) initiative, a yearlong exploration aimed at baby boomers on the verge of retirement. The initial cohort of about 10 will study alongside undergraduates for a semester this fall, then volunteer with a nonprofit in the spring.

Phyllis Moen, 74, a sociology professor and the program’s founding director, said baby boomers in what she calls the “encore” stage of life are similar to adults 18-30. They’re searching for a sense of purpose and meaning but uncertain how to attain it.

“Our society does not provide any roadmaps or blueprints for this stage,” she said.

With 74 million baby boomers in the U.S., Moen sees a tremendous need for the nation to help them find their way to a satisfying post-career life.

“These people are not ready for the rocking chair, and they’re not going to be ready,” she said. “It’s a great waste to society.”

The St. Paul Pioneer Press reports that by law, any Minnesotan 62 or older can enroll in a class for no credit at no charge - or for $10 per credit - at any state-supported college or university.

UMAC will cost $7,500 per person or $10,000 per couple in the inaugural year. Moen said that unlike someone who audits a class, a UMAC fellow will benefit from personal coaching and being part of a learning community.

“It’s a combined sort of career planning, self-reflection and renewal as well as a learning experience,” she said.

Moen modeled UMAC after similar and more expensive programs at Harvard University and Stanford, where she was a fellow two years ago. She said her peers found the experience powerful but many left saying, “I don’t know what I’m going to do next.”

That’s why she added the second-semester “midternship.” By spending a few months with a nonprofit, fellows can see for themselves whether service work might be a good fit.

The Selim Center for Lifelong Learning at the University of St. Thomas, which offers classes starting at $30 to people 40 and older, has seen participation grow in recent years. Director Bob Shoemake sees people at points of transition in their lives - recent retirees and parents whose kids either have just started kindergarten or left for college.

A Selim Center retreat last winter asked, “Who am I now that I’m not working, and how do I think about that?” Shoemake said. It drew attendees from their mid-40s to 99.

“You want to contribute, so you want to figure out ways to do that that fit your personality, your skills and your interests. I think doing that is really important to healthy aging,” he said.

UMAC fellow Lapinsky, who completed a master’s degree in instructional leadership in 2010, said she’d like to find work with a nonprofit that focuses on social justice or equity. She’d like to be paid but said it’s more important that she get the chance to contribute to the greater good.

“I have to think that I’ve got a good 15-20 years of really still being engaged in something that’s meaningful,” she said.

“I know that eventually I will find something that feels right.”

Correction: This story has been updated to correct the cost of classes at the University of St. Thomas’ Selim Center.


Information from: St. Paul Pioneer Press, https://www.twincities.com

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