Unretired: Ditching the Disappearing Act

Phoebe Berks resident Kaye Fox volunteers at a cat shelter three days a week.

Moving to a retirement community shouldn’t mean you disappear from public life. Some residents at Phoebe Berks — part of the United Church of Christ’s Phoebe Ministries — are unretiring, and they’re more active and visible than ever.

For many people, retirement is about taking a deep breath and a big step back. It’s a chance to put down some of the balls we’ve been juggling for 40 years and focus on pursuing activities we may not have had time for until now. For some of us, anyway. For others, it’s more reason than ever to become — or remain — active, contributing members of the broader community.

“You’re not put into a closet when you retire,” says Kaye Fox. She’s a resident of Phoebe Berks Village, our independent living community in Wernersville, Pennsylvania. Before moving to Phoebe, Fox was working on a farm in New York — a full-time job that left little room for traveling or other activities. ­These days she’s busy acting as a minor official at equestrian shows, singing in the Reading (Pa.) Choral Society, and volunteering three times a week at a cat shelter.

“Some people think you’re out of commission when you move to a retirement community; you’re not!” Fox continues. “You’re still your own person. Now that I’m living at Phoebe I can do more things!”

­The Phoebe Berks lifestyle encourages this kind of involvement in every way. “Our residents love the active lifestyle we offer here,” says Star High, executive director of Phoebe Berks. “Th­ey move here for the convenience of no grass cutting, snow shoveling, or home maintenance — not to sit in a rocking chair and watch television. Many of our residents still have jobs in the community on a part-time or volunteer status.”

Making the Most of Retirement

In retirement, Barbara Davis finds volunteering at a medical clinic to be rewarding work.

Of course, the power to make the most of retirement lies within each individual. “It’s up to you,” says Barbara Davis, “you can do as much as you want.” Davis has been volunteering once a week at the Western Berks Free Medical Clinic for 15 years. Based in the St. Daniel’s Lutheran Church in Robesonia — where she and her husband are highly active members — the clinic offers free medical services to people between the ages of 18 and 65. Davis serves on the board and helps at the clinic writing grants and checking in patients.

“Volunteering is an important part of making you feel needed and like you’re giving back to the community,” says Davis. She and her husband Fred moved to Phoebe Berks last year after one of Fred’s legs was amputated. ­They live in an apartment that’s easier to navigate than their two-story home was. Fred is now becoming involved with Reading Health as a mentor to new amputees.

Davis is also involved in her church and helps out at the hospital, too, knitting items to donate to patients. And it’s not all work, no play. She and Fred spend five months a year in Florida, something Phoebe Berks encourages its residents to do by offering halved rates on apartments and cottages for snowbirds. Like many of their neighbors, Barbara and Fred Davis are models of active retirement, and they don’t plan to slow down any time soon. “As long as we can drive and we’re mobile,” she says, “we’ll keep doing things we like to do.”

Ed Shofer still volunteers in the school district where he taught and served as a guidance counselor.

Some people find new adventures to take on in retirement. Others simply carry on doing what they always did, like Ed Schofer. He retired in 1989 from the Conrad Weiser Area School District where he had taught ninth-grade science and then served as an elementary school guidance counselor. After retiring, Schofer kept on working in the guidance office, helping with paperwork for about 10-15 years. Then he decided to become a volunteer. He reports every morning to write late passes and absentee excuses, sort and deliver mail, and perform other light office duties. “I just like what I’m doing,” says Schofer.

­There are scores of residents who are just as active, both within their community at Phoebe Berks and outside it. High says of the more than 300 volunteers at Phoebe Berks that many are independent living residents. Fox volunteers in the Phoebe Berks Village gift shop and helps transport residents in the health care center to the beauty salon. She has also sung with the community choral group, the Choraleers. Schofer is on the Village church committee; he also drives for Western Berks Shepherding Ministries and helps with transporting health care center residents.

“Part of our philosophy here is that age is a non-factor,” says High. “If you take good care of yourself by eating healthy, exercising daily, and engaging in an active social life, you feel much younger than your numerical age. We empower our residents to ask for what they need and live this kind of lifestyle.”

This story appears courtesy of The Phoebe Messenger, © 2017-2018 Phoebe Ministries.

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