As a record-setting number of Americans turn 65, expect the definition of retirement to be debated and expanded. While some may still dream of passing their golden years in total leisure, others envision a more active future, and new social enterprises see fresh opportunities for good by serving this growing population. One such enterprise is The Amazings, a skill-sharing program that creates opportunities for the over-65 crowd to pass their creative skills to the next generation.
Established in east London in 2011, The Amazings recruits retirees to teach classes, passing on their lifelong knowledge of a skill to students willing to pay between £5 and £30 ($10 – $45). “We realized the solutions for the aging population were typically doing things for them, like the daycare centre or meals on wheels,” says Katie Harris, co-founder of The Amazings. “But the majority of older people we met are able-bodied, passionate, and are skilled. They are willing to give their time and skills back to the public, but it wasn’t easy to do.” Along with company chairman Adil Abrar, Harris works with a handful of community managers who secure venues around London and manage class scheduling. The small team also recruits new talent that ensures a dynamic range of class offerings. The subject matter is broad — current classes include hair styling, street photography, condiment making and hammock construction.
60-year-old street photographer Andrew Pegram guides his class around the urban sprawl of London. “It’s not just that I have the experience to teach what I do with a certain amount of self-assurance, I also have the maturity to do it,” Pegram says. He acknowledges that The Amazings also crushes the idea that reaching the age of retirement means succumbing to a humdrum way of life. “It’s still quite scary, starting something new like this and meeting people.”
“The Amazings isn’t really a radical concept — this type of intergenerational skill sharing has been going on for ages. There’s so much negative press about the aging population, it’s depressing,” says Harris in an interview with Trend Hunter. “Over-65’s are often grouped together and spoken about like a drain on public resources. What we’re arguing is that with age comes experience — proper lived experience at that. They are in fact a massive asset.”
Over the next decade, expect to see more countries creating unique support systems for the rapidly-growing retiree population. In the US, an initiative called Senior Corps pairs members of the over-55 crowd with organizations that need help and can use their skills. Programs like these show the potential of a model that rewards experience. In a time where dreary headlines make the future seem uncertain, these innovative programs are a comforting reminder that life and meaningful employment can continue past the age of 65.
Chappell Ellison is a designer, writer and design writer. She currently lives in Brooklyn, New York where she serves as a contributor for The Etsy Blog and design columnist for GOOD.