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Third Chapter Curious, Vol. 1: Traverse City, Michigan

Updated: May 3



“Do not go gentle into that good night,

Old age should burn and rave at close of day;

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”


-Dylan Thomas 


April 9, 2024


Our focus for the first article series is on individuals who have moved to or returned to the area, bringing with them expertise and wisdom from their respective careers. We are spotlighting their love and appreciation for northern Michigan, and their contributions to compassionate business and community development in the area.

Western culture has an unhealthy fixation on youth, and it is imperative to dispel the notion of conventional retirement and imposed ageist rhetoric. People of a certain age are creating revolutionary changes in their communities and their industries, and many are continuing to work simply because they like it. Retirement was developed as a societal practice, not as an absolute. The word itself is derived from the French word retirer, “to withdraw,” which as a practice does not exactly bode well for living better, longer, and more fully. 


When you are valued by others and expected to deliver on a project or arrive on location by a specific time, you have tangible reasons to get out of bed and show up for life, as opposed to retreating into round-the-clock idling. Tradition is giving way to a new construct. 

While work may take on a new form, with an emphasis on meaning versus “grind culture,” humans have a physiological need to be actively involved in something. 


We’re curious by nature, yet so many people lose that quality as they age. Your interests and circles of concern should adapt, not become so limited that you lose the desire to learn. 

With age hopefully comes freedom—from insecurity, fear, and self-limiting behavior. 


This is not the time to become a shrinking violet; the world needs you. 

The Third Chapter is a mission to find out what makes people curious and how their passion sparks longevity through community. 


INTERVIEW I 


BRUCE THOMPSON | CEO & CO-FOUNDER OF URBANEER LIVING


Bruce Thompson is known as an innovator with global connections and a nearly four-decade history of industry leadership in technology, renewable energy, and design.

Currently serving as the CEO and Co-Founder of Urbaneer Living, he is a relentlessly ambitious free-thinker. He’s the type of person who radiates new thought and has an eye for potential—in people, companies, and industries. 

It’s clear from his career history that he has consistently been in the right place at the right time, poised to disrupt industries in need of upheaval and fresh perspective. Third Chapter Curious was created from his practice of understanding the next wave and figuring out how it benefits local and global communities. 


Interviewer: 


Is there a connection between your purpose in this phase of your life and your interests and passions from when you were younger?


Bruce:


“Yes, and it took me a while in my professional life to get back to what I was interested in growing up. My interests then were very much focused on the built environment. I loved drawing maps and looking at the aerial photographs my Dad would bring home. When we were on road trips, I would sit in the back seat and try to spot sections of highways that had been abandoned when the road was straightened over the years or went around hills. That is something I still do today, by the way. I also loved walking land that [he] owned or was developing. Today, my work reflects those interests I had 50 years ago which gives me the energy to still want to put in long hours. Much of what I do now doesn’t seem like work.” 


Interviewer: 


What was the driving force that brought you back to West Michigan, and then created the desire to move Up North? What is the ultimate connection for you? 


Bruce: 


“When we moved initially it was a good time from a family perspective for both of my kids in their educational journey, and my wife Brenda and I wanted to get back to our roots, having grown up in Grand Rapids, so there was a draw to get back to Michigan.

For myself specifically, I was seeking a career change after a couple of decades in the tech industry and the constant travel, especially international travel, left me feeling a little burned out.


I think [the idea of] Urbaneer was certainly on my mind and I knew that if we got back to West Michigan we might have a better chance of pursuing that vision.”


Interviewer: 


Considering northwest Michigan, Traverse City specifically, what is the value of this area to you and what does it provide in terms of energy and overall experience? 


Bruce:


“Well to answer this, and the second part of your last question on what brought us to Traverse City, I rediscovered the area when I toured The Leelanau School for my son. [It brought back] memories of going up there as a kid to The Homestead, and into town in Glen Arbor. 

So I started thinking that at some point we would like to make the move ourselves. After a couple of attempts where the timing wasn't right, we finally had the opportunity last summer when the timing was right for all of us to continue our journey.” 


Interviewer: 

Traverse City is such a special place and is rapidly growing. How do we keep the small town feel and add in larger city amenities sustainably? It’s a town largely based on tourism so there is a need for expansion, but it’s important for local people to be able to maintain a great life here year-round. What is Urbaneer doing to mitigate that balance? 


Bruce: 


Well that’s a great question, and it's a delicate balance in this case. For anything to be sustainable it needs to grow. We need to find ways for the area to grow to accommodate everybody, not leave people out. That's certainly a tall order because it’s already started to happen. Tourism is great but people living here contributing and creating year-round economic activity is critically important.


The role that [Urbaneer] can play is to build living communities, as we are focused on the 55-plus segment, many of whom live larger than their needs with one or two people in a three, or four-bedroom home. When you look at the 55-plus demographic, one in three households now is an individual, and loneliness has been identified by the U.S. Surgeon General as an epidemic. I’ve read that being social can extend your lifespan by seven years, so I believe there's scientific evidence that it's beneficial to be around people. By building our communities we can help people to have stronger social connections.” 


Interviewer: 


What is your Third Chapter how does that philosophy coincide with your idea of retirement? 


Bruce: 


Many of us in my peer group are redefining this period of life. If you think about the term retirement, it's an interesting word that was invented about 100 years ago when people had shorter life spans, and by my age or younger even, had 10 good years left after leaving the workforce. The focus for them was leisure and that was the case in my parents' generation as well. My peers are looking at things very differently. I just read a great article from Fidelity this morning where 68% of those surveyed [in the 55+ age range} said they are going to continue to be engaged in some type of work activity, and want to still be relevant. 


The purpose element is another big part of longevity. We need something to get up and do every day— it’s healthier for people than sitting around being sedentary. I think people want to do this stage of life differently now. Another trend that I've seen since we moved up [to Traverse City], which was not present in previous generations, is an emphasis on work-life balance.” 


Interviewer: 


How do you think we can keep more people in your age group active and encourage them to remain curious about new ideas?


Bruce: 


 “I love the word curious and find that the third chapter generation trend is centered around wanting to be relevant and to have a purpose. 

This is where community colleges can play a big role—for example, Northwestern Michigan Community College is looking at the changes happening in the world and there's more competition now for education providers to find solutions for gaps in meaningful learning. 

As for the communities we’re building, we can establish educational partnerships, and we're looking at courses that enable people to get back into lifelong learning programs. 


At the college [NMC] there are various programming elements, chief among them being the ‘Office of Possibilities,’ the acronym is OOPs, and they're targeting the *“silver entrepreneurs,” [demographic] as they’re called. 

The big question is how do you teach people who had a corporate job their whole life to become entrepreneurs and pursue their passions? 

The overarching mission is helping to connect people, pursue their passions, and learn new skills to be relevant in the third chapter.” 


©️Urbaneer Living Communities

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