Third Age Initiative and Leadership Greater Hartford

By: Joe Lander on September 3rd, 2020

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Third Age Initiative and Leadership Greater Hartford

Giving back

“What started as a local retiree looking to give back to her community is now an internationally-recognized program.”

Would you like to achieve your dreams and live a life of freedom and fulfillment? Who wouldn’t, right? The first step to living that life is to have conversations about purpose and how to align your money to support that purpose.

One of the best ways to live with more enjoyment and vitality is to volunteer and give back to your community. Studies show that doing this can add longevity, increase functioning, and lead to more joy and less depression in your life.

One amazing local organization that has taken the lead on helping retired, late career and experienced individuals become more involved in the Greater Hartford, Connecticut community Is Leadership Greater Hartford (LGH) through their Third Age Initiative, a program recognized by the United Nations.

We had the pleasure of speaking with Dr. Doe Hentschel, Third Age Initiative program leader and program alumnus, John K. Nelson.


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Dr. Hentschel was instrumental in establishing the Third Age Initiative in Hartford in 2000 after a long and distinguished career in higher education. She’s gone on to become the leadership preceptor, where she continues to work with the Third Age Initiative, as well as contributing, designing, and facilitating many of the LGH programs and services while serving as a guide mentor to colleagues. 

John Nelson is an alum of the Third Age Initiative and an example of living a life of purpose, love and passion for what you do. John has served as a board president and a board member of many Hartford area organizations, including the little theater of Manchester and the Connecticut and Hartford commissions on aging. 

In a city the size of Hartford, there are people from all over the world – for many of whom English is a second language. For example, the LGH Third Age Initiative worked with the Institute for Hispanic Families to help families find housing. A local Catholic charity built a new building that now has an elder program, an early childhood learning program, and enrichment programs for all ages. This has become a national model for charities where they are trying this type of intergenerational programming.

This is just one of countless examples, but this is exactly the goal of the Third Age Initiative. The program is not an end in and of itself, but the means by which people can get the help they need.

When the Third Age Initiative program is supporting a new cause, they’ll break up into teams of 6 to 8 people and take on issues that fuel their passions and interest them. They’ll research it, learn what's already being done, and look for ways in which they can make the biggest impact. 

The program is called the Third Age Initiative because most of the volunteers are people doing so later in life. Many are retired and no longer have to take care of their families, so they’re looking for productive and impactful ways to give back to their communities and spread some goodness. They want to be part of a team that shares a common goal and who are willing to commit their time and energy to make something important happen.


Recognized by the United Nations
The program has now been recognized by the United Nations. Here’s how it happened:

When Doe started this program, there had been an advisory committee to advise the implementation process. A member of that committee was active in the UN, which was getting ready to host an international conference on volunteerism in 2001. Doe and the team were accepted to attend an international conference on volunteerism on September 10, 2001.

Fast forward a year later, the UN hosted an assembly on aging and invited Doe and the team to present. Now, their program is the model by which the UN suggests other programs follow!

What started as a local retiree looking to give back to her community is now an internationally-recognized program. This amazing journey was led by hard work, determination, and simply trying to do some good.