Embracing a new phase of life
Gilbert Lavine didn’t plan to retire at 61. A native Washingtonian, Gilbert was working as a treasurer at a major company that underwent an acquisition. He stayed on for a year after the acquisition before retiring in 2012, much earlier than he had anticipated.
“My career was cut short,” he says. “I was in shock. Sixty-five seemed like the right time to retire, yet here I was in my early 60s without a plan and no idea how I was going to spend my time.”
But not for long. His 88-year-old mother-in-law’s health was failing, so the family decided to move her to the Washington area. “She became my project,” says Gilbert. “Getting her to doctors, socializing with her — that was my new phase of life, one I had not contemplated.”
Feeling overwhelmed, he contacted Iona, where he learned about its new Take Charge/Age Well Academy for retirees or those who are thinking about retiring. He became part of the very first group. “By listening and learning, I really began to address my retirement,” Gilbert says. “I hadn’t stopped to do that because I was going from crisis to crisis.”
The series touches upon such issues as nutrition and exercise – which Gilbert had been neglecting for years. He took up running and completed several 5K races.
One of the Academy’s themes is how to take care of your body. “What worked in the past may not work as you age,” says Gilbert, who has learned to eat small meals throughout the day instead of several large ones.
“Most importantly, Take Charge/Age Well provided me with an hour or two a week to focus on myself,” he says. “When you’re taking care of a family member, the last person you take care of is yourself.” After the series ended, he continued to meet with — and lean on — other Baby Boomers in the group.
The Academy also inspired Gilbert to volunteer. He used his skills as a treasurer for a statewide non-profit organization. Just prior to his mother-in-law passing away in 2014, he signed up to volunteer two days a week at Cashell Elementary School in Rockville, Maryland, helping students with math and reading. “I hadn’t been around little kids in a long time,” he said. “I love seeing all that energy.” So much so that he’s happily signed on for a second year in the classroom. Says Gilbert, “It’s what Lylie Fisher (who leads Take Charge/Age Well), calls an ‘encore career.’ It’s very enriching.”
“The day I wandered into Iona was a good day for me,” he says. “It helped me stop the day-to-day running around and begin to understand the next stage of my life.”
Written by Janice Kaplan