This past fall, I was able to attend the Encore gathering (organized by Encore.org) in Tempe, Ariz. This gathering of individuals from various realms (academia, nonprofit, etc.) were rallying around the idea that those beyond 60 years of age still have something significant to contribute in our world. The event kicked off with the “Purpose Prize” dinner, where individuals who are making a unique contribution to their community in their encore phase of life were granted prizes of up to $100,000. Some of the Purpose Prize winners included:

• Charles Irvin Fletcher: After stepping down as the head of his own telecommunications company, Fletcher used his ranch to launch a global network of 91 therapeutic riding centers, SpiritHorse International, serving 5,000 children with disabilities—free of charge.

• Dr. Pamela Cantor: Sponsored by the Eisner Foundation, this psychiatrist leads Turnaround for Children Inc., which helps schools counter the effects of poverty on student learning, reaching tens of thousands of teachers and children in 86 low-performing public schools.

• Kate Williams: As her sight faded to near-blindness, Williams worried about losing her career and her independence. She now uses the same adaptive technology that kept her in the workforce to help blind people find jobs.

• Richard Joyner: Rev. Joyner’s thriving, 25-acre community garden, part of the Conetoe Family Life Center, is steadily improving the health of his rural congregation, boosting students’ high-school graduation rates and economic potential—and providing a model for more than 20 church communities.

The Purpose Prize, now in its ninth year, is the nation’s pre-eminent large-scale investment in people over 60 who are combining their passion and experience for social good. Since its inception, the Purpose Prize has garnered over 10,000 nominations, honored 465 winners and fellows, and attracted millions of dollars in new resources for winners to expand their projects. The Purpose Prize is awarded to individuals creating new ways to solve tough social problems. The 2014 Purpose Prize awarded $300,000 to six individuals by Encore.org, with funding from the John Templeton Foundation and the Atlantic Philanthropies to showcase the value of experience and disprove outdated notions that innovation is the sole province of the young. It’s for those with the drive to make change and the experience to know how to do it.

Encore Nation and the Purpose Prize owe their origins to a modern dreamer who has dared to challenge our contemporary culture’s collective biases about age and usefulness. I’m referring to Marc Freedman, a soft-spoken, incisive and indefatigable visionary who has dedicated his life to changing our view of the second half of life. I first read about Marc in 2000 while researching the first edition of my book, The New Retirementality. Freedman was running Civic Ventures (which would later be named Encore.org), and I found an immediate resonance in a quote attributed to him that we could do better for our senior citizens than to have them licking stamps and sealing envelopes.