Making a Change
At 61, was it too late?
My job had lost its appeal long ago. I spent my days filling out state-required forms for clients. I made a good salary, but felt mentally exhausted and unfulfilled. I wanted to do something new.
“Are you crazy?” my friend, Kathy, exclaimed when I said I was looking for a new job. “In the first place, no one will hire you at 61. In the second place, you have great benefits here and can retire soon.” Other friends agreed.
But I had to try, and I knew just what I wanted to do: work with seniors. I’d been thinking about it for years – ever since I’d volunteered at a healthcare facility where I’d helped with crafts and bingo and had simply spent time visiting residents. I’d loved it.
I scanned employment postings until I found what I wanted.
Were my friends right?
The sprightly 30-year-old who interviewed me for the activity position looked skeptical but gave me a brief tour of the facility. She said, “I’ll call you.”
Months later I saw a similar posting. That interview was even briefer than the first. I wondered if Kathy was right about my prospects. I prayed, “God, please help me find the right position.”
I searched for several more months, my hopes dwindling. Then I saw it. “Position for caring, creative person to plan programs at senior community.”
After a phone interview with the company president, I was invited to a face-to-face meeting. But Kathy’s words haunted me, “No one will hire you at your age.” I decided to color my hair, have a facial, and buy a new suit. The suit wouldn’t make me look younger but would give me confidence.
My heart sank when I was greeted at Mountain View Manor by another perky young woman, but she led me to a conference room. “Mary’s waiting for you.”
When the president stood to greet me, I relaxed. She was about my age, had graying hair and a friendly smile. “I feel like I already know you after our conversation,” she said. “I’m impressed by your passion to do something meaningful with your life.”
Moving on at any age
That was almost 10 years ago. I still love my work and have no plans to retire.
Whatever our age or physical condition, there are opportunities for growth. Margie, a former ballet dancer, was 103 when she helped me teach ballet stretches to other residents. John was 80 when I met him in a creative writing class at the community college. He was pursuing his lifelong dream of writing a book. My friend, Olive, began training for the Senior Olympics when she was 70 and has won medals for race walking the past five years. But it’s not the winning that’s important, it’s the trying.
Older adults can be defined by others’ expectations, or we can defy their expectations and pursue our own paths to joy and fulfillment. We might even discover a new life purpose.
Diana Walters continues to work joyfully with senior adults. She writes in her spare time and has been published in Upper Room, Chicken Soup for the Soul books, and Christian Living in the Mature Years. She and her husband develop ministry aids for people with dementia, which can be seen at www.centerforboldaction.org.
Read more childhood memories from Michael W. Upside and other contributions from Boomer readers in our From the Reader department.
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