In the last four years, a growing number of boomers — those born between 1946 and 1964 — are showing up in the freshman class of state legislatures. Aspirations for the statehouse reflect a broader trend: Boomers, nearly 3 million of whom will celebrate their 60th birthday this year, are eschewing retirement in favor of meaningful second careers. Nearly 60 percent of Americans aged 50 to 70 said they want to put social purpose ahead of other goals, according to a recent survey commissioned by Civic Ventures, a group promoting older workers. (right: Pennsylvania Rep.-elect Frank Andrews Shimkus (D), former news anchor of WYOU-TV)
As evidence, some 20 percent of new teachers in alternative certification programs are over 50, the number of boomers in divinity schools has nearly doubled, and community colleges report a noticeable increase in older entrants in nursing and other health-related fields, said David Bank, senior vice president of Civic Ventures, and co-author of a forthcoming book on boomer retirement entitled “Encore.”
November’s elections ushered in a crop of lawmakers with non-traditional backgrounds: Many are not lawyers and have never before held public office. More women, Hispanics, blacks and Native Americans than in previous years were also part of the mix along with a new political breed — baby boomers who want to make a difference.
|Nebraska Sen.-elect Annette Dubas and her son
on the farm in Fullerton, Neb.
Some new boomer legislators, however, plan to keep pursuing their first careers while holding office. A case in point is Annette Dubas, 50, a lifelong farmer and mother of four, who was elected to the Nebraska Statehouse.
Nebraska Sen.-elect Greg Adams with volunteer
students from local high schools
Another Nebraska boomer, 54-year-old Greg Adams, said he joined the Legislature after 31 years in teaching because he “wasn’t ready to sit down and quit yet.” Adams was somewhat familiar with what he would face in the Statehouse — he has more than two decades of political experience, including a stint as mayor of York, Neb., his hometown.
|Arkansas Rep.-elect Kathy Webb (D) on left, at her restaurant|
Education is also a top priority for Kathy Webb, 57, a freshman Democratic representative in the Arkansas House. Webb — owner of the Little Rock restaurant, Dim Sum Then Some — said she understands what education means for workers: “I have daily interaction with people who can’t read and can’t do percentages. I see the need for something to offer people who are not going to college — more vocational training.”