Discovery Centers: Connecting Older Adults with Service Opportunities

After building careers and/or raising families, many people at midlife are asking, “What’s next?” No longer content with simply “retiring,” a growing majority of seniors, especially young seniors, want to continue to live meaningful lives full of possibility. To that end, older adults are seeking opportunities, paid or unpaid, to make a difference in their lives and in their communities. The question is how to go about finding those opportunities.

That’s where the Discovery Center for Civic Engagement can help.

The Discovery Center offers ideas, resources, and a peer support system to help community members who are 55 and older seek a stronger sense of purpose in their work, engage in their communities, and create balance in their lives. Transition Navigators, who are local peer coaches, help those who visit the Discovery Center navigate the transition from full time employment into finding a volunteer opportunity that matches the individual’s skills and interests.

There are currently six Councils on Aging across the state that have either launched a Discovery Center or will launch this fall. Half of the Discovery Centers have held information seminars introducing two key programming components  –”Discover Your Encore” and “Discover Your Purpose.” During the sessions, Transition Navigators interact with the participants, review their work history to define their specific interests, and provide a list of possible placements for volunteer work. Veronika Mitchell, a Transition Navigator at the Framingham Council on Aging, talked about the impact of the program, “Before leaving, one of the participants mentioned that she felt a lot more positive, and that it was a productive meeting.”

The Amesbury Discovery Center has already successfully placed six participants in volunteer opportunities and Transition Navigators from Framingham are currently working on building partnerships. To raise awareness of this new Council on Aging resource, ESC is helping market the centers in local communities by creating materials such as social media posts, press releases and articles.

Meanwhile, ESC has partnered with United Way to help them develop a database of nonprofit volunteer opportunities throughout the state. The Transition Navigators can use the database to find opportunities that match an individual’s areas of interest, geographic area and skills.

As seniors increasingly engage in their community through the Discovery Centers, the hope is that this new resource will help change the perception of older adults and their ability to make a real difference and positive impact in the world.

For more information on Discovery Centers, contact David Guydan, ESC Discovery Director or Willia Cooper, Transition Navigator Coordinator.