The Center for Productive Longevity (CPL) is pleased to announce the winners of its Later-Life Story Contest, which was created to demonstrate that older people can continue to lead successful and inspirational lives. Barbara M. Traynor was chosen for the Inspirational Life Story category and Lynn Brooks for her Entrepreneurship Success Story. Both entries are available to read online at http://www.ctrpl.org/later-life-story-contest-winners. A panel of three independent judges selected the winners from many fascinating stories sent in by people 50 and older. Lynn and Barbara will each receive a prize of $1,000 and a specially designed display trophy.
In Lynn Brooks’ winning essay, shewrote about beginning an organization in 1992 at age 59 called Big Apple Greeter in New York City. It is a non-profit that pairs visitors to NYC with volunteer greeters who explore the city together. This was the first “Welcome Visitor” program of its kind in the country. Today, the organization is extremely successful, but it was a challenging journey along the way. Lacking funding, support and computer skills, but holding onto a will to succeed, Lynn overcame many challenges.
Her story describes how far the organization has come. “Today we have more than 300 Greeters – most are over 55, more than 50% work, many are multilingual, some are blind or use wheelchairs. They are ready, rain or shine, to spend two to four hours with visitors, showing them our people, culture and diversity.”
Lynn also shared wonderful metrics. “In terms of success, our cup runneth over. We’ve had more than 120,000 visitors since we started. We’ve generated over two billion positive, world-wide media impressions about New York City. Ninety-five percent of our visitors give us ‘extraordinary’ evaluations. Our volunteer retention rate is incredibly high. We’ve been called the most cost-effective public relations arm in the city. We’ve been widely recognized, starting in our early years, with awards that run the gamut from corporations to city government, and in January we will receive the prestigious 2012 Hotel Excellence Lifetime Achievement Award.” To read her story, visit: http://www.ctrpl.org/later-life-story-contest-winners.
Barbara M. Traynor’s story begins with a situation that sounds familiar to many people. Yet she took some giant leaps of faith to change her life forever.
“Walking provides impetus to ponder. My 65th birthday was hovering. I was not feeling old, but sixty-five? That’s major! Why I chose to walk the beach on a frigid winter afternoon is questionable, however with boots crunching on the frozen sand, gloved hands balled into my pockets, I reviewed my six-odd decades. Married at nineteen, three children by twenty-seven, moved eighteen times with a grass-is-greener spouse – instant on-the-job-training in how to deal with transition – and divorced after seventeen years.
“Working as an administrative assistant for over forty-five years, single mother raising three children, generated an abundant desire for freedom and travel but little savings and no pension. Life was crammed with drama and trauma. Income matched outgo. I would have to live on Social Security income alone. I screamed into the thundering surf, ‘How can I afford to go anywhere? When is it my turn?’ Surprise! Someone was listening.
“Arriving home, I checked my email. A message from Alaska cajoled: How about becoming a long-distance, long-term volunteer? Hmmmm – it seemed that some organizations supplement their staff with volunteers, offering free room and board in exchange for workplace skills? WOW! That I could spend my over 65 ‘mystery’ years this way inspired my imagination. My frozen fingers tingled. I began to rethink retirement.”
At age 65, Barbara retired and drove to Alaska from Connecticut with a mission and copious notes about sites to visit along the way. The journey to be a volunteer exploded into becoming a journalist, author and speaker as well. Read her story, chock-full of adventure and inspiration at: http://www.ctrpl.org/later-life-story-contest-winners.
CPL will also select a variety of other inspirational and touching entries to post on its website.
“This contest was a tremendous opportunity for us to validate why we are passionate about later-life living,” says William Zinke, founder and president of the Center for Productive Longevity. “People from all walks of life are doing amazing things and positively impacting the lives of others along the way. These two women serve as an inspiration for us all, illustrating that success can be achieved with perseverance and passion.”
For more information on CPL, visit www.ctrpl.org or Facebook at www.facebook.com/CTRPL.