By Emma Young
“We’ll take the senior discounts, but put the rocking chairs on hold until our 90s,” said Nancy Rollins, who until very recently was a Prince William County resident. In January, she and her husband Jay, who retired in 2016, began an 18-month voluntary humanitarian mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Charities working in Amman, Jordan to “initiate projects designed to help improve the lives of Jordanians and refugees from neighboring countries,” Jay Rollins said. The mission’s end goal, according to the organization’s purpose, is to “relieve suffering, foster self-reliance, and provide opportunities for service for people of all nationalities and religions.”
Welcome to the new retirement! It no longer means “not working.” Retirees in Prince William County are active, engaged community members, who are living healthy lives, serving humanity, and getting to do the things they’ve always dreamed about but never had the time for.
Too Busy To Be Bored
“In 40 years or more of working, we [retirees]have learned a few things, and it would be a shame if we couldn’t apply those skills to helping people,” said Nelson Pacheco, a retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel and Montclair resident. That certainly applies in the Rollins’ case. Jay Rollins worked decades for the U.S. Agency for International Development and retired after working for Save the Children. The couple spent years living overseas, including eight years in Egypt. Jay Rollins’ extensive experience in “program auditing” taught him how to “get the best results while operating in underdeveloped and insecure environments. I hope to apply this knowledge to our work with LDS Charities in Jordan,” he said. Because they have lived in the region, Nancy Rollins already has a great love for the people she will be serving. “We have been especially saddened to see the plight of the people there. We are grateful that we can go…and do what we can to help,” she said.
For Pacheco, volunteering at the Prince William Area Free Clinic “was the single most rewarding thing I have ever done, and I‘m including all my work years in that assessment,” he said. “It gave me a purpose. I would say volunteering is extremely important as a way to still feel you are contributing to society and getting some emotional reward.”
Frank E. Lasch Sr., chairman and founder of Azalea Charities, knows the rewards of volunteering. The all-volunteer nonprofit organization has raised over $4.5 million since its founding “to support five area Special Olympics, five Boys & Girls Clubs, three homeless shelters, two food pantries, leukemia/ lymphoma, juvenile diabetes, and education,” Lasch said. In addition, in 2004 the group began Aid for Wounded Warriors and their families. “If you care about others, you’ll want to get involved with a local church or charitable organization to make a difference,” Lasch said. How has his volunteer work in retirement impacted him? “For me, personally, [it is]knowing that I have made a difference in thousands of lives. We have paid funeral costs and mortgage payments to prevent eviction or foreclosures, funded service dogs for veterans and family members…purchased wheelchairs, done outreach to organizations working with caregivers, built a home for a local veteran, and reached out to homeless shelters, food pantries, and many more. How does that all impact me? There is still so much to do and no time for vacation,” he said.
“There is a big need for help in this county,” said Pat Hall, a county resident known for volunteering with several organizations, including the Citizens FBI Academy, CASA (Court-Appointed Special Advocates) for abused and neglected children, the Prince William County Citizens Police Academy (and its alumni association), and in multiple positions with her homeowners association, to name a few. “It makes you feel good that you could help,” the “too busy to be bored” retiree said. “I’ve learned so much from all the activities where I have volunteered. I like doing new things, meeting new people, and trying new activities I would never have tried,” she said.
Retiree Bill Gooding recommends “taking some time to do something for the community.” For him “that was to join the Woodbridge Rotary Club, where we actively support several local organizations, such as Action in Community Through Service (ACTS), the Salvation Army of Prince William County, the ARC of Greater Prince William, and a scholarship program,” he noted in an e-mail interview. Marianna Gooding, his wife, recommends volunteering “to do for others in some way.” For her, getting “involved with my church [was]a chance to give back to others,” she wrote.
Pursuing Passions and Hobbies
Retirement is also about self-care. “Another aspect is having enough interests,” Pacheco said. “I don’t think you can work 40 years, something you’ve done most of your life, [and then do nothing]. There’s going to be a hole there. Have the hole prefilled with passions, not just activities, but things you’ve really wanted to do and not had enough time for,” he encouraged. For Pacheco, those passions include “a serious photography hobby,” golfing, and boating.
For Bill and Marianna Gooding, this included learning to play an instrument. “I always wanted to learn to play a musical instrument, and the banjo sounded like fun,” said Bill Gooding, who practices daily and takes a weekly lesson. His wife is learning to play the guitar. “Find things that you either have always wanted to do or now have time to do and get busy,” she wrote.
“It’s important for us to keep our brains engaged,” Hall said. “I’ve seen many people choose to do nothing, and they aged way too fast. Engage other people, get together and play games, join clubs and just have fun.” Marianna Gooding wrote that she “joined the Montclair Garden Club because I love working with flowers and digging in the dirt!”
Get Your Workout In
Hall recommends staying physically fit as well. “If you can muster the strength, join the gym and try to go three to four times a week. It keeps the joints moving, and you thank yourself later,” she said. The Goodings are also physically active. “I joined the [Sharron Baucom] Dale City Recreation Center, so I could swim and spin. I also still run three days a week and ride my bike if it is warm enough,” Marianna Gooding noted. “We try as much as possible to maintain lots of physical activity,” Bill Gooding added. He also has a membership to the recreation center and uses it for swimming, the fitness gym, and spinning. In addition to running and walking, Pacheco enjoys “golf a couple times a week,” he said.
One way to enjoy physical activity is through travel. The Goodings “take a ski trip to Colorado for about 10 days each year,” Bill Gooding wrote. They also joined SMART (Special Military Active Recreational Travel Club) and have traveled in an RV to various destinations with a group of military veterans. The group “most recently traveled from northern Minnesota to the headwaters of the Mississippi River and hopscotched down the Mississippi to St. Louis,” he noted. “We travel in our RV or go on cruises,” Marianna Gooding wrote.
Travel for Hall means family. “One of the nice things [about retirement]was that my husband and I could finally travel and enjoy ourselves. We have 14 grandchildren all over the country, so in between my volunteering, I try to visit them,” she said.
Pacheco spent about half of last year traveling. “We visited friends in Canada and Vermont, my son in New York, my daughter in Oregon, and another son in Los Angeles, and we spent three to four months in a condo in Puerto Rico. I have family down there, and it gave me more time to be with them,” he said.
Pacheco encourages travel away from cold weather. “Winters are harder the older you get. Get a condo somewhere just to be able to escape the winter,” he said. With an eye toward their retirement, he and his wife purchased the condo while still working. “Travel is not the end-all itself. It is something to do to see family and escape the winter,” Pacheco said.
“We all can’t do all the things we want to do, but surely do the things you can and enjoy each day,” Lasch stated. “The long and short [of it]is staying active. You are sure to live longer, and one day sit down and say, ‘I did enjoy my retirement, and I’m glad I was able to make a difference in people’s lives.’”
Emma Young (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a freelance writer living in Montclair.