An encore career is a career which starts after the traditional retirement age of 65. Encore careers typically involve an entirely new field, which may mean that additional education or training is required. Many involve a greater focus on public service and work which people feel is meaningful in some way. The increasing popularity of encore careers is viewed as a positive benefit for the workforce, as it increases the number of people working and contributing to society.
Since life expectancy increased radically in the 20th century, many people who retired at the age of 65 found themselves bored and restless. While they were entitled to retirement benefits and treatment as senior citizens, they found the environment of retirement not to their liking, and a growing number of seniors started embarking on encore careers. Some people started even earlier, in middle age, transitioning from their first career choices to a different field.
Typically, an encore career is designed to fulfill a desire for public service and a positive contribution to society. For example, someone might develop new educational tools, work with a women's advocacy organization, or assist with a foreign aid program. Many baby boomers who switched their careers in mid-life cited a desire to do something positive for the world as the primary reason for the switch. Sometimes, people bring existing skills to an encore career, while in other cases they start fresh, bringing new skills and decades of experience to their new chosen field.
While the reasons for entering into an encore career can be altruistic, there can also be a financial motivation. Some seniors worry about the amount of their benefits, or want to ensure that they are covered by good health insurance. Others may lack enough retirement benefits to make full retirement an option, so they seek out a career which will support them into old age.
A number of colleges have recognized the encore career demographic, offering training specifically geared to people who want to change their careers. The rise of encore work has also led to a greater focus on ageism in the workplace, as many seniors have difficulties when they seek employment due to prejudicial attitudes about their age. The increase of older people in the workforce may help to dispel some of these prejudices, by allowing people to see first-hand that older members of the workforce can be very productive, positive assets.