Become a barista, a beekeeper or a lighthouse keeper, with website's help | January 15, 2020 | Almanac | Almanac Online |


Community - January 15, 2020

Become a barista, a beekeeper or a lighthouse keeper, with website's help

Atherton resident creates Amava to match retirees with interesting volunteer and part-time work

by Angela Swartz

Foraging for mushrooms, recording voice-overs, walking dogs, brewing coffee. Or how about rescuing sea turtles?

These are just some of the opportunities listed on Amava, a website founded by Atherton resident Mark Silvermanto help match empty-nesters or retirees who find themselves with extra time on their hands and an itch to keep busy with part-time jobs, volunteer work or travel adventures.

Officially launched in late 2018 after a test run earlier that year, Amava now boasts about 120,000 members across the country.

"The problem we're trying to solve is how to help tech-enabled individuals transition from full-time jobs to socially engaged post-career lives," said Silverman, a managing director of the venture capital firm Catamount Ventures who hatched the concept for the startup in 2017 in his guest house.

Silverman serves as the company's CEO, and his wife, former Menlo Park City School District board member Joan Lambert, is part of the 10-person staff.

Lambert left her school board post in late 2018 after eight years of serving, and said she is committing more time to the company, which is currently headquartered in San Mateo.

Amava's mission is close to Lambert's heart. She said she saw the need for such a company when she saw her father become isolated when he retired, and that condition began to have an impact on his health. She saw his social withdrawal was something that had not been addressed by other companies.

"My dad worked for the federal government for his whole career," Lambert told The Almanac. "Soon after he retired, my mom was diagnosed with cancer and my dad was her caregiver.

"After my mom passed away, he really didn't know what to do every day, and he became isolated. He had been a gregarious person and loved socializing with people throughout his long career and over 40-year marriage, but as he withdrew it was clear that he was quickly losing his mental sharpness and was becoming depressed," she explained.

"When we tried to help we found limited resources available, and then mostly focused on residents of assisted living facilities; and also it was hard to help him from the Bay Area when he was down in (Los Angeles) as there were no good online resources at that time.

"A similar thing happened with Mark's grandfather although the circumstances were different. Our personal experiences have had a profound impact on us and make us even more committed to what we are doing at Amava to make it easier for everyone to stay active and connected as they navigate the inevitable transitions that come with aging."

Volunteer opportunities and jobs listed on the website, which raised $6.2 million this fall in a funding round led by RPM Ventures, include helping fire victims, hosting an exchange student, beekeeping or acting as an extra on a film set.

Silverman said he saw an opportunity to help an underserved population — more than 10,000 people in the U.S. daily who are leaving their full-time jobs, according to the company. He noted that most startup founders are younger and less focused on finding solutions for older people.

Because people are also living longer, pension supplies often become depleted, which means 60% to 70% of today's retirees will need some income to maintain their current lifestyles, he said. Finding flexible, part-time work is necessary to fill these financial gaps, he noted.

One financially successful potential Amava investor wanted help finding a part-time barista job just to stay socially engaged, Silverman said. "He didn't care about making money to make money." The man also enjoyed the act of learning how to make an espresso, Silverman said.

Research from the Stanford Center on Longevity, which studies social and cultural change related to issues of longevity, underscores the value of seniors remaining socially engaged. Seniors who withdraw socially after retiring experience more negative health impacts. Social isolation is linked to both higher rates of chronic illness and shorter lives.

In part, the negative effects of social isolation may be caused by inadequate sleep, depression, alcohol abuse and physical inactivity, according to the center. Compared with people in the same age group 20 years ago, Baby Boomers, the 74 million Americans ages 55 to 75 years old, are less socially engaged, according to the Stanford center and Pew Research Center, which provides information on social issues, public opinion and demographic trends.

"During any transition, a lot of people feel isolated and feel like they're the only one going through this," said Lambert, who serves as the company's research director. "There really are many of us going through this same thing. ... People identify as a (job) role."

Silverman said he hopes that Amava can help people reevaluate how they identify themselves. "We want people to think of themselves based on their principles and values rather than just their (job) identity."

Although 60% of Amava members are ages 45 to 70 (23% are ages 35 to 44), Silverman and Lambert were surprised to find that over 1,000 of their members are between the ages of 25 and 34.

"People are always thinking about transitions," Silverman said.

Amava operated out of a small office in Menlo Park for a year, but rent price increase led to the company's move to 400 Concar Drive in San Mateo. The staff remains largely made up of people who live in the Menlo Park area, including Scott Lohmann, Rebecca Bloom and Lisa Lindquist, Lambert said.

And what does "Amava" mean? The curious will have to find meaning in the work the company does, not in the name.

"We were looking for a name that was short, easy to pronounce and sounded 'positive,' and also that didn't have a specific meaning," Lambert said. "And Mark came up with 'Amava' after considering many other options!"

For more information on Amava, go to


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