Deborah Lofton, 67, likes exploring new opportunities. It’s an attitude that in 2005 led her to take what she calls “a leap of faith.”
“I was a registered nurse at a hospital, and I’d have patients who hadn’t understood what the doctors told them,” she says. That gave her an idea: to write and publish a consumer-focused health magazine with articles about different diseases and how to prevent or treat them.
Deborah left her job and got to work on the magazine, pitching it to hospitals and pharmacies. But while there was plenty of interest in stocking it, no one wanted to pay for it.
“I didn't know how to sell myself. I gave free advertising to nonprofits like the March of Dimes. I gave it to churches, libraries. But I couldn’t make any money,” she says. “There was so much I didn’t know about how to run a business.”
Deborah, who has lived in Birmingham, Alabama, her entire life, didn’t want to go back to working at the hospital. She went into home health instead, first as a field nurse and then as a supervisor. But when she was asked to take on a role that involved auditing records, she soon learned that “auditing was not my cup of tea. I wanted to do something more rewarding and enjoyable.” So she retired, six months earlier than she’d planned.
She hadn't planned to start another business, either — but without full-time work, she couldn’t make ends meet. “When my income went down to just Social Security, I knew I had to get another job,” she says.
Eventually, Deborah came to AARP’s website. “It's a wealth of information! The job board was so encouraging, because there were companies that want to hire people who have experience, regardless of age.”
The website led her to AARP Foundation’s Work for Yourself@50+ program, where she learned how to market herself to potential clients, use social media to advertise, and apply for a 501(c)(3) exemption to establish a nonprofit.