Project Renewment® is the first retirement model for career women. The term “Renewment,” a word we made up, is a combination of retirement and renewal. It serves as an alternative to “retirement” which still is associated with negative stereotypes and clichés. In contrast, Renewment is positive, suggesting rebirth, choices, vitality, opportunity and personal growth. It implies that decisions about this new lifestage can be intentional rather than defined by the needs and expectations of others. Since career women retiring today are the first and largest generation to define themselves by their work, there are few role models.
It all started in 1999 when my colleague, co-author and co-founder Bernice Bratter called and asked if there was any research or program for career women facing retirement. She was on her second retirement and having some difficulty. My response to her was “No, not to my knowledge.” We met for lunch which lasted four hours and realized there was much to discuss. That led to a meeting of like-minded women over a four-hour dinner at Bernice’s home. After that first dinner meeting Project Renewment was born. We have been meeting ever since.
So what is it? Project Renewment is a process by which career women navigate the transition from work to retirement. Typically eight to 10 women meet monthly in someone’s home, often over a meal, to discuss a variety of topics dealing with identity, productivity, relationships, money, faith and what is meaningful in this new life stage and more.
Project Renewment also is a book consisting of 38 essays based on the first five years of meetings, research and the authors’ perspectives. Essay topics include “Who am I Without my Business Card?”, “What is Productivity Anyway?” and “What if he Retires First?” The last section of the book is a guide and informal curriculum including tips on forming a group and examples of questions and answers that lead to rich discussions. Women add their own topics. Note: topics change as women enter a different life stage.
Because Project Renewment is not a formal organization but rather a mini-movement, we are not sure how many groups exist. Out best count is about 37 groups in three countries. Groups have grown virally. Some no longer meet, others have merged and others have continued anywhere from 1-18 years.
There is no graduation from the renewment process which essentially is about change, personal growth and maximizing opportunities.
One of the unintended consequences of these small groups is the formation of enduring communities of women from Boston to Miami, from Washington, DC to Los Angeles, and more. They report Renewment has given them a sounding board and safety net of women; expanded their perspectives, opened their mind to new experiences and perspectives and exposed them to a group of smart, insightful and compassionate women with whom to test ideas. May I add – we have a little fun in the mix.
For more information, contact Helen Dennis at Helendenn@gmail.com or call at (310) 373-6660. See www.projectrenewment.com which is being updated. The book which made the Los Angles Time best seller list is available at Amazon.com.