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Encore fellowships: Finding social purpose, with added health benefits

29 Jan 2021 | Written by Julia Randell-Khan & Deborah Gale
Encore Fellows - younger woman and older man

Image credit: Robert Carter

Not everyone who reaches retirement age is ready to retire, but you may be ready for a change. Matching people in retirement with non-profits seeking experienced talent has proven to be a recipe for success for Encore Fellows – an organisation dedicated to bridging divides, connecting across generations and creating a better future together. We asked Founder & CEO, Julia Randell-Khan, and Intergen Lead, Deborah Gale, how an Encore fellowship can help those in later life find purpose (and health benefits) during the transition into retirement.

We know from decades of research that strong social connections and a reason to get up in the morning are key to our well-being as we age – we need to get past the idea of ‘stay safe and stay out of the way’ ” says Marc Freedman, president and founder of Encore.org

The Centre for Ageing Better supports the view that, when older adults increase the quality and quantity of their social connections through voluntary activity, their self-esteem deepens and life satisfaction improves. They are happier and healthier.  

Ready for a change? 

Not everyone who reaches retirement age is ready to retire. But you may be ready for a change. As lifespans lengthen, many people are aware that they still have a lot of time ahead to remain productive. You may be passionate about wanting to use your skills to make a difference, combining personal meaning with social impact. But formal roadmaps for doing this are few and far between, leaving many floundering on their own as they seek purpose. 

Try an Encore fellowship

The Encore Fellows programme, which launched ten years ago in the US, was based on a simple equation: identify retired people who wanted a next stage of work in the charity sector; add in non-profits seeking experienced talent, especially corporate sector expertise; offer a 750 -1000 hour fellowship matching the retiree with a full or part time volunteer role with a charity; and voila — a new multigenerational workforce would benefit everyone.

The programme offers an orientation and learning programme to support you with a purposeful transition to a fellowship in the social sector. It’s an energising way to learn something new and become a “modern elder,” a role popularised by social entrepreneur Chip Conley to refer to people who have both life experience and a desire to learn and grow. They are less focused on climbing the ladder and more focused on being of service and getting things done. 

In the US, the programme has worked with 2000 fellows who have provided over 2 million hours of service in 50 cities in the last 10 years.

Encore Fellows UK

Encore Fellows UK is, at present, working in collaboration with Encore.org and the UK’s Longevity Forum, bringing the success of the Fellowships programme in the United States to the UK.

Transitions can be unnerving and challenging. They require humility and an openness to change, but recognising their inevitability and planning for them are the first steps in navigating a new course. An Encore fellowship can help you with this transition in later life – a chance to use your skills, experience and wisdom of life in a purposeful, supported way.

To learn more, visit www.encorefellowsuk.org.


Julia Randell-Khan & Deborah Gale

Encore Fellows UK

The Encore Fellowship programme gives retiring people a chance to use the skills they have accumulated over the years for something they have a personal passion for. If you’re a member of The Joy Club, you can learn more about becoming an Encore fellow by clicking here, or by signing in to your account, searching for ‘Volunteering’ invitations and selecting ‘Use your skills to make a difference to others – try an Encore career’. If you’re not already a member, why not sign up for your one-month free trial to see what you can discover, unlock and enjoy?