The Next Chapter

Vicki Kahn

Vicki Kahn had it all planned out. After 43 years working full-time in the healthcare field, she was going to retire, then travel, spend time with her family and friends and meet new people. As she waved goodbye to everyone in February 2020, she was excited for her next journey to begin.

Unfortunately, everyone knows what happened next. One month later, the world shut down, and the COVID-19 pandemic changed the way the world has lived ever since.

Now, for Kahn, travel was off the table. Socializing became difficult. Yet with all those hours freed up, this gregarious and active woman had to find ways to fill her days.

Her daughter, Lisa Kahn Budlow, encouraged her to join the Myerberg Center. She told her mother about its array of programming from fitness and wellness to arts, culture and current event classes.

Intrigued, Kahn became a member, taking virtual exercise classes, yoga and more. She saw people she grew up with on Zoom, rekindling old friendships — and making quite a few new ones. And for the first time in her life, she began pursuing interests she put aside for her career.

“Growing up, I always wanted to be a commercial artist. But then I went to Goucher. They didn’t offer that major, so I received my degree in sociology and psychology. When I began working, I never had time for art.” 

Now she signed up for formal instruction in drawing and painting. She took arts and crafts classes and began doing projects with her grandchildren. She even set up an art studio in her home.

“Drawing and painting became relaxing for me, and I loved it, even began taking classes in person when they reopened,” she says.

“I realized that rather than the world closing down for me, it has opened up in many different directions.” 

The Great Resignation

Since the pandemic began, workers have left their jobs in record numbers. At the top of the list are Baby Boomers. According to The New School’s Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis, roughly two million more people than expected have retired since the pandemic began. 

Planning for retirement not only includes thinking ahead about one’s finances, but also about how to spend the days. Backed by research, Rozi Rice, volunteer coordinator and program facilitator at Jewish Community Services, who among other things facilitates Good Company, a program for individuals over 60, says that keeping oneself physically and mentally healthy is crucial, potentially prolonging the chance to live an independent life.

“Eating well, combined with exercise and engaging in hobbies, games and classes reduces the risk of disease and cognitive decline. Socialization, whether in person or over Zoom, and volunteering can cultivate wellbeing,” says Rice.

In fact, a recent study found that when mentally intact people in their 70s and 80s participated in six activities that required active mental engagement — reading, writing, doing crossword puzzles, playing board or card games, engaging in group discussions and playing music — these individuals were half as likely to develop mild cognitive impartment five years later.

Rita Plaut

Several years ago, Rita Plaut began thinking about retiring. As a teacher at Krieger Schechter Day School (KSDS), she was comfortable planning ahead and she used that skill to figure out what she hoped to do during retirement. 

“I immediately joined a Hebrew book club with other retired Hebrew KSDS teachers. I started playing bridge. I volunteered for Reading Partners, a tutoring program for students in Baltimore City, which offered me the opportunity to work together with children in helping them to improve their language skills. 

I also became a docent at the Jewish Museum of Maryland (JMM), guiding guests through exhibits and leading tours of the historic synagogues, allowing me to express my passion for Jewish history. And I joined the Jewish Women’s Giving Foundation, among other things.” 

But when the pandemic hit, many programs went virtual, and Zoom fatigue soon settled in.

Making a Difference

When Plaut was at KSDS, the students were often asked to bring an extra lunch to donate to Manna House. When she learned about Jewish Volunteer Connection’s Bunches of Lunches program, she knew she wanted to continue this tradition. 

Every Monday, Plaut transports hundreds of lunches, made by volunteers, to Alexander and Alexander and Associates, Inc. which distributes them to community members. Not only is she helping address food insecurity, in the process, she has cultivated a really special friendship with her contact Carmen Alexander. 

“As Carmen and I got to know one another through our weekly visits, we began to communicate a bit about our common concerns for our community. We share a common purpose — helping to assist, even in a small way, in improving the lot of the residents of our city and the wider community,” Plaut says. 

Finding a way to combine the aspects of the work and skills one enjoyed over a career with something new is a piece of advice she would give someone thinking of retiring.

Keith Shapiro

Keith Shapiro, former president and CEO of Sysco Foodservice of Baltimore, couldn’t agree more. When he first retired six years ago, he immediately began to volunteer.

He drove people to doctor’s appointments through the Jewish Community Services (JCS) Mobile Mitzvah program. He became involved with the JCC, an organization he embraced after the positive experiences his four children had through the JCC’s Maccabi Games.

Committed to the organization, he now serves on the JCC Board, chairing many of their programs and he recently took on an additional role as its treasurer. His association with the JCC has also spurred new and wonderful friendships. 

“I began to realize there was an after-life,” he says.

Shapiro also began utilizing the skills he developed over a long and productive career in food services to make a difference. Not only does he serve on the board of the Maryland Food Bank and donates time to Great Kids Farm, but he is also a board member and volunteers regularly at the Community Assistance Network, which operates the largest food pantry in Baltimore County. 

Three times a week, Shapiro goes to the food pantry, packing food boxes, distributing food and getting to know the many people who pass through there. He is even helping it transition to a grocery store model. 

“There are people who are 70 years old, raising kids on Social Security. They are doing whatever it takes to make it and they are so appreciative of what we are doing,” he says. 

When asked about his advice to future retirees, he says, “If you enjoyed what you did in your career, harness those skills in a new capacity, because there is definitely a need for you. If you were a lawyer, an accountant, in the health-care arena, I can guarantee there are ways you can use your skills to make a difference in this community.” 

“You’ll have all this extra time that you never had before,” Plaut adds. “So think about how you want to fill it. Think about your values and what will bring meaning to your life.”

Retired or thinking about it? Here are a few ways to get involved throughout The Associated system and nurture your interests. 

Retired or thinking about it? Here are a few ways to get involved throughout The Associated system and nurture your interests. 

The Assocated’s Jewish Women’s Giving Foundation
Join other forward-thinking women to use the power of collective philanthropy to support programs that help women and girls.

Dignity Grows
Get involved in this hands-on project addressing period poverty in Baltimore. 

Jewish Community Center
Check out the JCC. It features a state-of-the art fitness center, indoor and outdoor pools, complimentary wellness events through LifeBridge Health, volunteer opportunities, art classes, lifelong learning opportunities and more at two beautiful campuses.

Jewish Professional Women
Continue using your professional skills after retirement through this Associated affinity group. JPW engages speakers who tackle issues relevant to women in the work force and connects seasoned professionals with women seeking mentors.

Jewish Volunteer Connection
Volunteer at home or in-person, by yourself or in a group, as often as you’d like with JVC. JVC matches volunteers with nonprofit and service agency partners across Baltimore.

Myerberg Center
Join the Myerberg Center, which offers virtual and in-person programming for 55-plus. The Myerberg features a state-of-the-art fitness center, art and ceramic studios, a Tech-Knowledge Hub and a vast array of classes, ranging from cooking to current events.

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The Associated is a home for everyone in the Baltimore Jewish community. We offer several email lists to help people find a community, engage with their peers and support Jewish journeys around the world.

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