Due to healthier lifestyles and better health-care systems, more people are reaching their retirement age when they can expect another 20 to 30 years of life.

For most people, the transition from working life to retirement represents a psychological challenge.

Life after retirement

Typically, during the honeymoon period of retirement, seniors become highly active, increasing travel plans or following more leisure activities.

However, scientific studies show this elation declines after a year and the question of how to spend the days in a fulfilling manner becomes a central one.

The transition from an active working life to retirement is not yet part of the personal development programmes of corporations, and this represents a potential loss for good employer branding.

An investigation by the EBS Business School found that most companies do not offer a transition programme for their staff, who are barely or not at all prepared for their time after retirement.

In addition, most companies do not maintain relations or develop programmes to engage their retired employees.

Thus, the potential of people in retirement remains grossly untapped for both former employers and society.

More retirees are getting involved in voluntary, social or cultural causes.

In Japan and the United States, 12 per cent and 30 per cent respectively of all pensioners pursue such causes, and the numbers are rising.

On another note, the number of seniors without adequate financial protection is also on the rise.

Unfortunately, opportunities for people above 65 to provide their expertise to support a social cause or to find a job to boost their income are few.

This could partially be due to the misperception that seniors experience a sharp decline in their physical abilities, relevance and mental acuity.

The need for a bridge

However, the not-for-profit sector is an ideal employment opportunity for retired individuals who have the time, passion and skills.

Social enterprises and organisations often lack qualified talent and professionals, mainly because they cannot afford the competitive salaries offered by the commercial sector.

The question remains as to why no bridge has been built to solve the chronic lack of talent within social enterprises — which has limited their ability to solve social problems — and simultaneously address a retiree’s problem of how to fill his time effectively.

Seniors4Social Change programme

With this in mind, EBS Business School started a programme called Seniors4Social Change.

This provides a structured transition from working life to a post-professional career, where employees nearing retirement can learn about social entrepreneurship on a pragmatic and realistic level.

One year before retirement, participants take part in 26 classroom days and 14 project days to get engaged in a social entrepreneurship project. This constitutes approximately 20 per cent of their working time.

The programme focuses on the daily challenges of pursuing a social cause in a professional way.

Topics such as finance, impact measurement, strategy and leadership are taught by experienced social entrepreneurs.

The programme also aims to inspire participants to commit to a career with a cause after their retirement.

The Seniors4Social Change programme has already seen some good response:

• Seniors showed a great interest, with good ideas for self-determined engagement and a willingness to get involved. Many participants demonstrated a high level of commitment to the social sector.

• The majority of seniors want several options in designing their retirement. Some choose a “honeymoon” phase, where they enjoy themselves first before getting involved in a social enterprise. It is best if the last year or the final months of their working life be set aside to prepare for retirement.

• Seniors4Social Change has numerous tangible benefits for employees too. It strengthens employee loyalty, builds a positive reputation and maintains communication with experienced former employees and professionals after years of service. A transition programme is also welcome as it offers interesting perspectives of social engagement that contribute to the company culture and its social engagement record.

Based on these positive results, the Senior4Social Change programme will be rolled out internationally next year.

Through this initiative, it is hoped that more seniors can enjoy an “encore” career, by starting a social business, joining a social enterprise as a partner or employee, or enhancing their skills as an adviser or board member.

Article by Dr Andreas Heinecke, Professor Danone Chair of Social Business, EBS Business School, Germany