The latest JSA Snider Foundation Virtual Empowerment Series session was co-sponsored by Jewish Seniors Alliance (JSA) and Jewish Family Services (JFS). Held on April 26, it continued with the theme “Be Inspired.” Titled Retired, Rewired and Inspired, it featured three older adults expressing their feelings, ideas and experiences of “retirement.”
Gyda Chud, co-president of JSA, started things off by describing the series – which involves co-sponsorship with other community organizations, such as JFS – and its theme.
Program committee Fran Goldberg then introduced the speakers: Rosa Tesler, who was a counselor for abused women when she retired in 2018; Dr. Paul Steinbok, who retired from neurosurgery in 2017; and Tony DuMoulin, who retired from his law career about a decade ago.
The first speaker was Tesler, known as Chully. She described retirement as an up and down road. She missed her clients. She lost her husband and her mother within the same time period. She feels privileged that she had the support of a loving family. To weather the downs, she said, a person must develop patience, determination and self-compassion. It took her a year to overcome health issues, but now, with the correct medication, she is able to live her life. She thanked her many friends, her therapist and her yoga teacher for their ongoing support.
Chully took a course on friendly aging and also the peer counseling training at JSA. She is now an active peer counselor. The pandemic caused major changes in many of her pursuits, but she continued with tai chi, yoga and peer counseling, all virtually. She did have to forgo travel. Adapting, reframing and hope kept her going. We are defined not by what happens to us, but by what we do, she said, ending with a quote from a friend in Argentina who teaches healthy aging: what is in your power, continue; stop what you didn’t want and can’t do; and initiate what you do want to do.
Steinbok had been a pediatric neurosurgeon and, when he retired, he pursued his love of photography, walking and travel. He had been part of an amateur camera club for many years and won an award in 1970. After retirement, he joined a photo group at the University of British Columbia, and learned digital photography. He began looking at nature from a closer perspective, especially its textures and patterns. He started to use his camera more creatively. He shared some of his close-ups of tree bark, stumps, mushrooms and flowers. There were shots of manhole covers – many of which have lovely designs on them. The photos are beautiful and artistic and have been in many competitions. Steinbok said the art of photography adds meaning to his life and he shares them with family, friends and the photo club. He said it feels as if he is continuing to teach, as he did in neurosurgery.
DuMoulin was a practising lawyer for 40 years, managing a firm for 24 years and teaching law. He retired at age 67, because he had many interests that he wished to pursue but not the time or energy to do so. He also wanted to retire at the top of his game.
DuMoulin calls himself a recovering lawyer – he said he needed to rewire and although he was told that he would be bored, the opposite has been the case. He feels his worldview has widened and that he is lighter and freer. He is involved in many activities and spends time with his five grandchildren. He is also reading more and has started a book club. Before COVID hit, he was traveling more, and he is exercising more. He has designed and built a cabin and has done some watercolour painting. He teaches and plays chess. He is active in JSA – on the executive and board and as a member of the editorial committee of Senior Line magazine; he chairs the advocacy committee. He is inspired by volunteers in the nonprofit sector and said the future is our responsibility – and belongs to us as well.
Tamar Stein, seniors outreach coordinator for JFS, thanked the speakers. She said JFS’s programs take place on Tuesdays at 11 a.m. – on May 10, there is a talk on grief and loss and, on May 24, on Medical Assistance in Dying.
Chud brought up the three Rs that she had heard from a friend: relationships, reflection and restorative practice. DuMoulin commented on the recording of family histories and a specific program that helps with this, called Story Worth. Larry Shapiro, co-president of JSA, added that the speakers had been inspirational and that a senior should speak at every event, while Chud thanked Jenn Propp for her contributions, Stein and the speakers.
The next JSA event is its spring forum on May 15, which features the concert With a Song in My Heart, led by Wendy Bross Stuart. The final Empowerment Series session for 2021/22 is in June, with the Kehila Society of Richmond. Visit jsalliance.org.
Shanie Levin is program coordinator for Jewish Seniors Alliance and on the editorial board of Senior Line magazine.