Life after 50: It works in Rappahannock

For many people, the thought of getting older sparks fears of potential job discrimination, retirement uncertainty, as well as aches and pains. But for three part-time Rappahannock County residents who are 50-plus years old – Kerry Hannon, Beverly Jones and Elizabeth Isele – getting older is an exciting process that opens up many new opportunities. Their success and exuberance has prompted them to devote much of their time to helping other over-50 folks find their niche.

Kerry Hannon is the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) jobs expert and a nationally recognized authority on career transition and retirement. She’s also author of a number of books, including her latest duo, “What’s Next? Follow Your Passion and Find Your Dream Job,” published in 2010, and her current bestseller, “Great Jobs for Everyone 50+: Finding Work that Keeps You Happy and Healthy . . . and Pays the Bills.” Both books focus on career development for seniors.

From left: Elizabeth Isele, Kerry Hannon, Rick Wasmund and Beverly Jones. Wasmund, owner of Copper Fox Distillery, is one of the area residents Hannon profiled in her new book, “Great Jobs for Everyone 50+: Finding Work that Keeps You Happy and Healthy . . . and Pays the Bills.” Photo by Kay Beatty.
From left: Elizabeth Isele, Kerry Hannon, Rick Wasmund and Beverly Jones. Wasmund, owner of Copper Fox Distillery, is one of the area residents Hannon profiled in her new book, “Great Jobs for Everyone 50+: Finding Work that Keeps You Happy and Healthy . . . and Pays the Bills.” Photo by Kay Beatty.

“Great Jobs for Everyone 50+” is divided into two sections. The first section describes jobs people over 50 might consider; the second section is a workshop on planning and implementing a plan for a new or expanded career.

“The information I present is the right subject at the right time,” Hannon said. “A lot of people over 50 were laid off during the recession and are searching for employment, possibly in a different field. Others simply reach a midpoint in their careers and ask themselves, ‘Is this all there is?’ They’re ready for a career that feels more meaningful. Others have taken early retirement and simply want something else to do.”

Beverly Jones, owner of Clearways Consulting, LLC, a company that offers executive coaching and leadership development, agrees with Hannon on the reasons seniors might want career changes, and adds that most want to stay engaged, active and relevant in the economy.

“Some people find themselves 30 years in [a career] with a strong desire to recreate themselves,” Jones said. “They’re in a perfect position to do it, as they’ve had experience in failure as well as in succeeding. They’ve gained wisdom. They can draw on all of this to approach the marketplace with all kinds of energy.”

Elizabeth Isele, co-founder of Senior Entrepreneurship Works, a nonprofit organization dedicated to help workers who are 50 and older start their own business, said that the number of seniors starting businesses increases every year.

“Today 25 million older adults plan to start a new business,” she said, “and half of them want to start a nonprofit to give back, to do something meaningful for others.”

She noted that although seniors are more active than ever, the federal government seems to lag behind in attitude, with their focus solely on entitlement programs, rather than ways to help healthy seniors who want to work remain employed.

“The focus is on dependency, but they need to paint seniors in a more positive light,” Isele said. “Seniors are living longer, healthier lives and are staying in the workforce. They have a lot to contribute to society and the economy. They’re assets, not liabilities.”

All three women admit that age discrimination is present, but times are changing, as baby boomers age healthily and work through normal retirement years. They note that Rappahannock County is a good place for seniors to begin again, to start a new business or learn a new trade.

“Rappahannock County is a creative resource, a great place to put your thoughts together,” Isele said.

“And the proximity to D.C. and Charlottesville is also a benefit,” Hannon noted.

“This community has a great support system,” Jones said. “You can pick up the phone and call a local lawyer, accountant, artist, architect . . . nearly anyone you might need.”

And the three part-time Rappahannockers do just that. Hannon often calls on Jones and Isele as sources for her books, blogs and other writings. They often can be seen having brunch at Sperryville’s Thornton River Grill or enjoying themselves at a local business. In fact, Hannon wrote about a number of Rappahannock businesses in her books. Just a few mentioned or alluded to in “Great Jobs for Everyone 50+” are Copper Fox Distillery, Horse N Hound and Roy and Janet Alther’s orchard and store in Sperryville, which Hannon visits to purchase fresh produce and homemade pies.

“Don’t get me started about Janet’s pies,” Hannon wrote in her book and will reiterate to anyone who asks. “They’re magnificent.”

For more information on Hannon’s work, visit KerryHannon.com. For information on Beverly Jones’ business, Clearways Consulting, LLC, visit clearwaysconsulting.com. For information about Elizabeth Isele’s non-profit organization, Senior Entrepreneurship Works, visit seniorentrepreneurshipworks.org.