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Retirees find a second act for their skills

Volunteers, including Anne Meyers (second from right), with Soar Management Consulting Group, work together on a project for a nonprofit organization.

By Jennifer Fenn Lefferts Globe Correspondent 

When Anne Meyers retired in 2008, she wanted to slow down but not stop working altogether.

After a successful career in public sector management, she felt like she still had something to give.

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Meyers, 71, of Brookline, helped start Soar Management Consulting Group, an organization that provides pro-bono services to nonprofits in Greater Boston. About 60 consultants, mostly retired senior managers, volunteer an average of 10 hours a week working with nonprofits on strategy, board development, marketing plans, and other aspects of their organizations.

“I had a long career doing interesting work, so I wanted to find something to do that would use my skill set and keep my busy,’’ Meyers said. “I didn’t want to go to a school at 10 a.m. and read twice a week to kids. I have grandchildren for that. But I also wanted flexibility to do other things and I knew consulting would give me that flexibility.

And, she added, “I’m learning a lot too.’’

As baby boomers hit retirement age, many of them — whether trained as managers, educators or computer engineers — say they still have expertise and wisdom to share.

And their time and services are in high demand as volunteers or paid part-time workers.

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The Massachusetts Teachers’ Retirement System, for example, posts jobs and volunteer opportunities for retirees throughout the state. The retirement system says many local organizations contact them seeking retired educators to volunteer their talents and expertise.

Wicked Cool for Kids, a Stoneham-based organization that provides after-school and summer STEAM enrichment programs for elementary and middle school students, posts job openings with the state retirement board for paid positions and volunteers.

“We’re always looking for kid-friendly qualified people to work with children,’’ said Barbara Johnson, the organization’s director. “And we’d be happy to pay them.’’

Johnson said one instructor is a retired Boston public school teacher who just doesn’t want to stop. “There are so many smart folks out there that have something to offer,’’ Johnson said.

Barbara Goodman of Arlington volunteers as a tutor for the Jewish Vocational Service in Boston about three hours each week. Goodman, 69, retired five years ago after a 40-year career as a special education teacher.

“I retired and you think it’s going to be wonderful but all of a sudden you don’t know what you’re going to do with the rest of your life,’’ Goodman said. “So, what are the things I love? I went into teaching because I love teaching and learning so this just hit the right spot. I go in there and I come home and I feel like me again. I’m helping people who need an education and I’m helping people who want an education.’’

Robert Gray of Newton retired from the computer industry about 10 years ago. He wanted to find something flexible and interesting where he could earn a few extra dollars. He heard his children talking about the ride-sharing service Uber a couple years ago and decided to give driving a try.

Two years later, Gray, 75, has given about 10,000 rides, made enough money to pay for unexpected expenses without dipping into his savings and has met fascinating people — all on his own time.

“It can be a lot of fun,’’ he said. “Boston is filled with amazing people doing amazing things. I go to Kendall Square and hear about all the medical miracles taking place, meet all sorts of people visiting our universities. It’s fascinating.’’

Gray will be teaching a class this winter through Newton Community Education on Ride-Sharing for Seniors because he thinks it’s a viable option for other retirees to supplement their income.

“I do it to provide some extra money in a flexible format and it becomes enjoyable with the conversations,’’ Gray said. “I do it to suit me.’’

Lynn Smith, development manager for Old Colony Elder Services in Brockton, which serves communities south of Boston, said her agency has 650 volunteers.

While the program may best be known for its Meals on Wheels service, there are a variety of volunteer opportunities. She said some volunteers play with kids in school, drive veterans to doctor’s appointments, or help seniors with money management. “It’s quite an interesting way to stay active and involved,’’ Smith said.

“We’re not your seniors of 50 years ago. We’re living out loud and one of the ways we do that is through service to our community,’ Smith said.

Smith said the agency also serves as a match maker to connect seniors with a variety of nonprofit organizations whether it’s the Spire Center for the Performing Arts in Plymouth or the library in Marshfield.


Jennifer Fenn Lefferts can be reached at jflefferts@yahoo.com.