Story contest captures how baby boomers reinvent retirement

Suzanne Cook

Suzanne Cook

Sociology Professor Suzanne Cook, a member of York University’s Centre for Aging Research & Education (YU-CARE), is launching the Redirection Story Contest in conjunction with her research on the increasing trend of older adults opting to change careers instead of retiring.

Cook coined the term “redirection” to refer to a new stage of later-life career. In her national study “The Redirection: Work and Later Life Career Development Project,” she has been investigating the experiences of people aged 50 and older as they search for a new career path. This innovative research project is funded by the Canadian Education & Research Institute for Counselling with the expectation that findings will inform future improvements in the career development field, career building tools and services available to career development practitioners, human resources professionals, managers, policymakers and older adults themselves.

The story contest invites participants to share their stories via text or video and highlights older workers who have already embarked on a second career. Statistics Canada labour market data for 2015 indicates that workers aged 55 and over experienced employment growth. This national data sheds light on this social and economic trend, while the Redirection Project assists with uncovering the experiences of individuals and their later-life job searches, including challenges and successes as they reject traditional notions of retirement, Cook says.

“Both those seeking and those finding new work are part of the bigger picture and represent important facets of this social issue. People who have successfully found new work options are role models to those who are looking for work. It is important for those who are searching for employment to see someone they can identify with who has overcome challenges,” says Cook, a social gerontologist and adult educator. “Stories are missing that reflect ordinary people who have interesting experiences, face obstacles and do amazing everyday things, like search for a job despite barriers or setbacks. These stories often go untold or unheard. The Redirection Story Contest opens up a space to share these equally compelling and valid experiences more broadly.”

The Redirection Story Contest will assist with education, awareness and policy development about later-life work, occupation and career development. The contest will also help create a sense of community among those in similar circumstances who are looking for work. These stories will serve to inspire people seeking employment out of choice or due to financial reasons, says Cook.

“There is a shift happening surrounding late-life work and retirement. The concept of redirection allows individuals to utilize their existing skills, abilities and knowledge by transferring them into a new interest,” says Cook. “Some people need to work. They realize they haven’t saved enough for their retirement. Others realize the underlying meaning of their work is that it provides purpose and a reason to get up in the morning. ”

She adds that “career development theories and approaches have focused on youth or mid-life. The older adults have been invisible because we have assumed people are not working for pay in later life. The concept of redirection provides a lens for us to look at later-life career and career development.”

Cook will be sharing her research in a variety of ways, including a 22-minute documentary film featuring older adults telling their own stories, a book about the new career stage of redirection, a report for practitioners in the field and a presentation at the 2016 Cannexus Conference for Career Practitioners & Career Services Professionals.

A random draw will be conducted to award three prizes to story contest entrants. The prizes are $100 gift certificates to Tim Hortons. All submissions will be included in the draw. The story contest ends March 25. For more information, visit MyRedirection.com or email redirect@yorku.ca.

For more York University news, photos and videos, visit the YFile homepage