When Nancy Kessler was unexpectedly laid off from her job at 58, her efforts to find a new job fell flat and trying to secure a full-time position with health benefits was even more difficult.

So Kessler, who will soon turn 60, felt it was time to take a different course. Two years ago, she signed up for a class at the Women’s Enterprise Development Center, Inc. (WEDC), a White Plains-based non-profit that provides small business development mentoring to women who are looking to become entrepreneurs.

While today’s over 50s are classified by AARP as “seniors,” the Mount Kisco resident certainly doesn’t feel old enough to settle into her golden years, at least not yet. The U.S. government determines full retirement age at 67, and U.S. citizens and permanent legal residents who reach age 65 and have lived in the U.S. for five years are eligible for full Medicare benefits. But that doesn’t mean that most of them will necessarily retire in their 60s. According to a 2014 study from Bank of America Merrill Lynch, in conjunction with Age Wave, 72 percent of pre-retirees (people over the age of 50) say their ideal retirement will include working, often in more fulfilling and flexible ways.

“In the quote-on-quote old days, you retired and you had 10 healthy years ahead of you,” explains Nancy Collamer, a career coach, author and speaker who is an expert on helping people create lifestyle-friendly second careers. For today’s baby boomers who are on the cusp of retirement, that’s not the case, with many of them living at least 30 years or more past that, she adds. To go from working full-time for an average of 40 years and then to transition to daily leisure activities just doesn’t cut it, says Collamer. “It’s not enough for people. It’s a lot of hours in the day to fill and it’s a lot of years to fund.”

Kessler is similar to the baby boomers that Collamer writes about in her book, “Second-Act Careers: 50+ Ways to Profit from Your Passions During Semi-Retirement.” The New Jersey native spent much of her career as a museum curator, and then in the early 2000s she worked in two different independent living facilities as a director of programs. After taking WEDC’s 60+ hour Entrepreneurial Training Program, Kessler figured out a way to incorporate her experiences with senior citizens into a business, turning it into a venture called Memoirs Plus. Kessler has a knack for compiling the unique stories of each senior client, and she says it’s an activity that also provides them with the kind of intellectual stimulation that many older people don’t often get. “I love it,” says Kessler.

“Nobody cares that I have a little bit of gray hair. In fact, my age helps me.”
— Nancy Kessler

Kessler says WEDC was crucial to her success, helping her to create a business plan and form an LLC, as well as research her competition and target audience. 

“It was a transition, but I really love it,” says Kessler of her two-year-old business. “I have so much more creativity and freedom now, and I’ve met so many interesting people as a result of it. It’s the best thing that has ever happened to me.”
— Nancy Kessler