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A Life by design

Photos and Story by

Marilyn Webber

Marilyn Webber

Marilyn Webber, 54, was glad to be a guinea pig for a good cause. Last year, Webber took part in a pilot, three-day class through upstart Life By Design Northwest program, which is for adults 50 and over. The program assists retirees in discovering their passion and purpose in their later life. Life by Design is a collaborative effort of several organizations to provide resources and opportunities for those considering life beyond retirement. Partners include Morrison Child and Family Services, Oregon Public Broadcasting, Portland State University, Hands On Portland, AARP, Multnomah County Library, NW Natural and the Jubitz Foundation.

By developing plans for the future, the retirees are able to enhance their contributions to the community. It includes both physical and virtual sites that will provide resources for life planning, lifelong learning, civic engagement and self-help for people at mid-life.

“They took a holistic approach to retirement,” Webber said. “They brought in a true expert in each subject matter. There was quality in each subject area presented. It was much more than telling us how to eat right and stay healthy. It took it further than that.”

Webber is typical of a Life By Design student. She works as the office services supervisor for NW Natural and has worked for the company for 12 years. She has been thinking about retiring when she turns 62.

“It’s never too early to start planning,” Webber said. “The class brought together many elements necessary to make my retirement a successful one. I was expecting the class to be the usual how to save, eat right and stay healthy. It went much further than that, giving us tools to not only set our goals but achieve them, and help us identify those activities that give us pleasure and fulfillment in life. The key is to establish good life habits prior to retirement.”

Recently, the program received a $25,000 grant from the Swindell’s Family Fund of The Oregon Community Foundation to go toward the planning and development of the Life by Design Initiative. The initiative will be a model for expansion at other sites across Oregon and nationally. It is planned to be self-supporting within two to three years.

Marilyn Webber

“There is an urgent need,” said Neal Naigus, community relations manager at PCC. “There is an unprecedented opportunity to engage our most innovative and community-minded institutions in harnessing this group’s time, experience and energy for the benefit of our communities. The Life by Design Initiative will meet this need by helping these ‘third-agers’ find direction and connection to meaningful roles.”

The goals of Life by Design are to help people over 50 in transition to “returnment” rather than retirement as people leave their primary careers and re-engage in activities that return value to communities. It will increase participation in high-impact paid or volunteer opportunities at certified non-profits to help utilize the growing older workforce.

For Webber, the program gave her guidance on not only what she needs to do to prepare for her retirement, but also the activities she can do during retirement, like volunteer work. Fewer and fewer retirees truly retire these days to a life of immobility. Many remain very active through volunteering and part-time work.

“It really helped me find what I want to be doing in retirement,” Webber said of the program. “It’s a great time to start planning. The Life By Design class brought the issues all onto my radar.”

For more information on PCC’s Life by Design program, call 503-977-4122.

About James Hill

James G. Hill, an award-winning journalist and public relations writer, has been the Communications Specialist for the Office of Public Affairs at Portland Community College since November of 1999. A graduate of Portland State University, J... more »


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