"Reinvention" is more than just a buzzword -- it's a growing trend as millions of older Americans launch "encore careers" (careers for the "greater good," according to Encore.org) and start their own businesses.
"Second Act," a new television program debuting Thursday evening on RLTV, captures a number of post 50s ready to reinvent themselves and follow their dreams, with the help of a familiar face. Paul DiMeo, who many may remember as the carpenter and designer on "Extreme Makeovers: Home Edition," works with a team of experts to help Baltimore-area dreamers achieve their passions -- whether that's starting a nonprofit or opening up a restaurant.
"It's been a lot of fun," DiMeo told Huff/Post50. "It's fun telling these stories. It's nice seeing boomers really risking themselves to follow dreams."
DiMeo, who considers those featured on the show "heroes," says he's learning just as much from hosting the show as the people he's helping. "You learn in success and failure," he said. "We learn that when we fail when we're young, it can be mindblowing. But as we get older, we learn that failure is just a part of [learning]."
We spoke with DiMeo about his new gig and why many post 50s consider pursuing long-held dreams once they reach this age.
How did the idea for "Second Act" come together?
They came to me and [asked], "Is this a project you would be itnerested in?" When I heard some of the stories -- a woman starting a bed and breakfast, a woman who started making cupcakes in her house and started becoming successful with it -- [I thought] I would love to watch the process and help them tell their story.
The idea of retirement, I just don't get it. Maybe it's just a desire to do what you want to do. We think of work as work and play as play, [but] it's nice that we continue to play or we find our play. Maybe we're finding our play as we get older and we're a little wiser for it.
Why do you think people have these make or break, need-to-transition moments when they're 50 and up?
When we are young we're all about changing the world. As we get older, [we think] "I can change the world by worrying about my neighbor on my left side and my neighbor on my right side." We learn that as we get older that we can change the world by [changing our community].
I realize that mortality lurks where prior to that there was this feeling of immortality. In the same breath, I look at the people I've watched throughout my life who have been a huge influence, whether it's through their music, or whether it's through their art. I look at the Rolling Stones who are going out on tour again. I was just reading an article about (Mick) Jagger; he has to prepare more than he used to have to prepare, but they're still doing it. That's what I want to be. That's what I want to do. I want to continue to be a storyteller.
Is there a life experience that has changed the way you view aging?
I am 55. Three years ago my dad died. I've lost young friends to cancer, and with the show prior to this, I was exposed to many different tragic things but that... He was always someone I could go to and ask a question. He would give advice from a south Philadelphian, Italian upbringing -- a very black and white answer. I always had that. My mom is still alive at 88, 89, [but] there is no one I can go to to ask those questions.
I kind of looked [at] myself and I remember my dad at 55, I certainly remember him at 50. And yet I sure as hell don't feel the way I thought my dad felt at 55. Maybe he didn't feel that way either, but I remember he had his 50th birthday party and people were bringing him canes and a walker with a horn on it...
A little bit of me says I still want to do things and [wonder] do I have the time. [But] I don't know if the time is still important -- I would love to make buratta and bring buffalos from Italy and get some land in California and make that cheese that is so good. Ok, at 55, if i start here, do I have enough time? It doesn't matter as long I'm reaching toward that goal. The journey has always been the important thing. That's the fun part!
What piece of advice would you give someone facing the same transition as many of the people who appear on the show?
I say if you can, if you want to, if it's your dream, follow it. The last thing I want is to be on my death bed and saying, "I wish I would've done that." My dad would always say, "No one on their death bed says 'I wish I spent more time at the office.'"
When we're younger we'd do things without fear of consequences. Now we know what the consequences are, so we can try things. Myself and my wife never had children, so it's not that we have to see that our children are set and ok. I think these kids are resilient. If you want to redefine yourself, go ahead and redefine yourself. But do it with the experience you've learned, and ask help from others. If you want to start a nonprofit, realize you have to pay yourself, realize that that's a business. There is a business plan that goes along with a nonprofit.
[Also] manage your money. You don't want to have to start all over again.
What's been your favorite encounter so far?
We're doing a story right now about a woman doing a nonprofit called Art with a Heart and she's bringing art to underprivileged kids and adults in the Baltimore area, even in our public schools where we've cut art in our curriculum. It's after school where if they didn't have it they would be doing something else. The adults are using art as a way of healing. They're all really great stories.