One in a series ...
By Hannah Poole, Public Information intern
"I always find myself invoking Carl Jung," said Willo Carey, smiling. "I think it's been a well-kept secret until recently, but the second half of life really is the most interesting."
This is indeed a driving belief for Willo, executive director of Wider Horizons, a holistic initiative designed to foster creativity, social engagement and lifelong learning in community members over 50. Willo has developed Wider Horizons since its strategic planning phase in 1999. "We assessed the need for education on the broadest scale," she explained. "We researched what needs weren't being met, and what role we might play in meeting them. And after looking at our core older audience — and the growing demographic over 50 — we realized we should create something like Wider Horizons."
Wider Horizons, which takes its name from "Wider Horizons for You and Yours," the words that form the acronym WHYY, launched almost a decade ago and built relationships with many community partners. Today, Willo is vice chair of the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging, on the advisory board of the University of Pennsylvania's Institute on Aging and on the executive committee of the Section on Medicine and the Arts of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. "We've built a real constituency," Willo said. "Through our Caring Community coalition, we have an active network of experts on aging, agencies serving the older population and hospitals and doctors, who have proven invaluable in raising funds and awareness." But it's not exclusively about caring for an older audience, Willo reminds us. "This population is incredibly vibrant and eager to give back to its community," she said enthusiastically. "They have so much to contribute, and it's our job to make that apparent and provide the inspiration and connection."
Willo has recently been focusing on civic engagement and learning opportunities for the boomer audience as a founding partner in Coming of Age, a Philadelphia-based national initiative. With that intent, Willo is also working with WHYY's Membership staff and Public Media Commons to design meaningful Wider Horizons experiences at WHYY.
"I try to find ways to develop new content, in addition to looking at ways to best make the wealth of content that we currently have accessible across new media," she said. "And I continue with this hope of creating awareness that people over 50 are great assets and sources of inspiration to the community." An example is WHYY's Coming of Age series of profiles on radio and online.
Before Wider Horizons, Willo was WHYY's development director and maintains that many people still know her from her fund-raising days. She also directed WHYY's first capital campaign to build the WHYY Technology Center and convert its operations to digital. Though her 30th anniversary at WHYY is quickly approaching, she said the excitement of being a part of the team, as well as her initial love for public media, has never diminished.
"When it comes down to it, it's all about the people I work with," she said. "WHYY has a knack for hiring the most talented and dedicated people. I can't think of a more exciting place to work."
Some of Willo's most memorable moments at WHYY include winning the 2005 Eastern Pennsylvania Geriatric Society President's Award and co-hosting the Three Tenors reunion concert in 1994 with Itzhak Perlman. "I was also a guest on Radio Times with Marty Moss-Coane," she added. "It was a show about people who have very structured, analytical jobs but lead creative and artistic lives outside of work."
In her personal life, Willo is an avid artist. "I actually switched my college major and did graduate work in studio art," she said. "And I've made a conscious decision to get back into sculpting." Willo also has a strong desire to return to Rome, where she lived for three years after college. "Being in Italy changes you," she said. "My husband also has a lot of interests and loves to travel, so I really enjoy a very full life — having married for the first time after 50."