[Editors note — this is a continuation of 12-part feature by The Wall Street Journal profiling “pioneers who are shaping the way Americans will live, work and play in later life.”]
Number Five — A Life of Purpose
If you find yourself, in your 60s and 70s, immersed in a new career and a new passion — teaching children to read, for instance, or helping an environmental organization — you may have Charles Feeney to thank.
Mr. Feeney, 76, is the founding chairman of Atlantic Philanthropies, an international foundation that is committed to disbursing its entire $4 billion endowment by 2020. A large chunk will go to help older adults “live healthier, independent lives with dignity, purpose and meaning,” says Brian Hofland, director of Atlantic’s international aging program.
The foundation, for instance, has helped fund the Purpose Prize, awards of $100,000 given each year to five “social entrepreneurs” age 60 or older who are tackling some of society’s biggest challenges. Civic Ventures, the San Francisco nonprofit that created the Purpose Prize, last year received $10 million from Atlantic Philanthropies in part to stimulate development of “encore careers” for people 50 and older.
Mr. Feeney himself is a bit of a recluse. (He declined to be interviewed for this article.) He doesn’t own a house or a car, and when flying, he typically travels coach, says Conor O’Clery, an Irish journalist and biographer of Mr. Feeney. It wasn’t until 1997, after Mr. Feeney sold the company he founded (DFS Group, a chain of airport stores), that his sizable charitable efforts became public.
“A lot of what Chuck likes doing is building buildings at universities and hospitals,” Mr. O’Clery says. “But more and more, he became concerned with health issues, and I think his interest in aging grew out of that.”
— By Kelly Greene, The Wall Street Journal
Tomorrow — Staying Mobile.