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New doors opening for retired baby boomers

By: Georgia Rogers

Jan. 6, 2007

It may seem improbable now, but by the year 2020 nearly half the people in the United States will be age 50 or older.

The result of baby boomers (those born from 1946 through 1964) getting older, this societal age shift is already apparent in the number of mature workers opting to start brand new careers rather than “winding down” their work lives.

Discovering new professional possibilities and aptitudes while gaining self-fulfillment in the process is what this re-careering trend is all about.

Local professionals who exemplify this growing baby boomer phenomenon recently shared their stories at a re-careering panel discussion presented by Tempe Connections and ASU’s Faculty Ambassadors Program at the Tempe Public Library.

Consider these examples:

After enjoying a successful career in accounting, Barbara Huff set her sights on the field of developmental psychology. Now a doctoral candidate at ASU, her focus is on how people continue to learn throughout their lives and what motivates them to keep learning.

Steve Moyer spent his first career as an attorney in San Diego. When he moved to the Valley to make a fresh start, he answered an employment ad for a theater manager and got the job. Today he is the house management supervisor at the Herberger Theater Center in downtown Phoenix, in addition to being a photographer and wood sculptor.

Ric Garza now works as the events coordinator for the Poisoned Pen mystery bookstore, which has two Valley locations. But for 20 years of his work life, he was with the Phoenix Police Department and attained the rank of police sergeant.

One of the people who heard these real-life re-careering stories during the Tempe Connections program was south Tempe resident Ken Bond, who retired a year ago from the Maricopa County Juvenile Court System.

Bond spent most of his 34 years with the court system in various juvenile probation managerial positions, and now is looking into other fields “to see how my skills could translate to something else.

“I’d like to find something I could do part time to help pay for our youngest daughter’s education,” Bond said.

While he explores new work options, Bond is serving on the advisory board for the new Workforce Transition Center at Gateway Community College.

Re-careering panelist Barbara Huff talked about several studies related to lifelong learning, including one by a Penn State researcher who did longitudinal research for the National Institute on Aging. That recent study showed people’s mental abilities actually increase in their 50s, 60s and even 70s.

In the field of psychology, Huff explained that the term self efficacy means believing that you can. When embarking on a whole new career, self-efficacy “can be the greatest predictor in achieving one’s goals and showing how much you value the new venture,” she said.

Huff also shared information about ASU Tempe Enclave, a program she helped establish in 2004 that offers mini-courses in various science and humanities topics for older adults. To find out what would pique the interest of prospective Enclave students, Huff first surveyed 350 people living in the far East Valley. She discovered that their motivations for continued learning included exercising their minds, feeling a sense of accomplishment, and keeping up with important developments in a changing world.

Steve Moyer talked about how, while working as an attorney in the San Diego area, he had volunteered to help some friends coordinate entertainment events like a concert series. That volunteer experience helped pave the way for his new career in theater management once he moved to the Phoenix area.

“When considering a new career field, for some people it’s good to try something related to a hobby,” Moyer noted.

For Garza, the research skills he honed while studying library science definitely came into play as he worked on various criminal cases for the Phoenix Police Department. In turn, his law enforcement background has proved beneficial in working with mystery authors at the Poisoned Pen bookstore whose books deal with the criminal mind.

“Think broadly when choosing another career path,” Garza advises. “Look at fields that are somehow related to the professional experience you already have.”

Baby boomers interested in re-careering and other upcoming programs available through Tempe Connections can go online to or contact program director Rebecca Bond at (480) 350-5490.


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