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From juniors to seniors Comment on this post ↓
June 20th, 2021 by Warren Swil

Retirement brings a chance

for a second (or third) act

Like many folks in their 60’s, I approached my retirement in

The Raconteur, retired at 67

the summer of 2019 with a mixture of glee and trepidation.
Freed from my classroom obligations, I was anticipating many wonderful days of leisure and relaxation. Simultaneously, I was concerned about how to include productive and fulfilling activities in at least some of those days.
Finding a second – or even third – act is often a challenge for many of us after our work life is over. For me, it was a matter of “graduating” from juniors (teaching students mostly under 25) to seniors (those over 60).
I spotted a teaching opportunity at the Pasadena Senior Center and barely a month after my last class at Pasadena City College, began my first semester as an instructor at the PSC.

This was not a spur-of-the-moment transition. For about five years prior I had been a volunteer at many PSC events; I helped serve countless meals, answered the phone, checked books out in the library and enjoyed a weekly scrabble game.
You may recall how in the aftermath of the 2016 US presidential election the issue of “Fake News” had been a major topic of discussion amongst many concerned citizens in our society.
In January 2019, The New York Times published this article that caught my attention:  Older People Shared Fake News on Facebook More Than Others in 2016 Race, Study Says

I shared this article with the director of programming at the PSC and it lit up his imagination. “Would you like to teach a class on fake news at the PSC?” he asked. He wanted me to start immediately. I prevailed upon him to wait six months until I retired.
It seemed like a perfect fit. I spent the first 20 years of my professional life as a reporter and editor at daily newspapers. The last 12 years, I was a journalism and mass communications instructor at PCC.
Since as long as I can remember, I have been a news junkie. It is no imposition on me to follow the news; I do it regardless, perhaps to a fault. Meeting with a group of my peers once or twice a week to share my knowledge was a no-brainer. And, there would be no term papers or final exams to grade! What a bonanza!
I spent much of the summer of 2019 developing the curriculum for the 10-week semester. Much as I did when I first started at PCC, I was writing the lesson plans and gathering the teaching aids (videos, web sites) just a week or two ahead of presenting the material.
It seemed to strike a chord.
My first and most enduring impression of my new “students” was how engaged they were. Not only were some of them way more qualified than I ever would be (a retired neurosurgeon and a former LA Times employee were in my first group) but they had upwards of six decades of life experience to draw on.
There was no way to finesse these folks. They were on the ball; so I had to be, too.
Part of the way through the summer semester the program director asked if I wanted to expand and offer a second weekly class in the fall semester. I demurred. It was more work than I was willing to commit to at that time.
After chewing it over for a couple of weeks, I counter-offered. I would be willing to do a second group, I suggested, provided it would be a “discussion group” rather than a “class” … in other words, everyone would contribute content instead of me pontificating for an hour per week (and having to do all the preparation that entailed).
It was agreed and scheduled, starting in October 2019.
My “second act” was coming into focus. I spent three days per week at the PSC in the fall and winter of 2019/20, and we had already started the spring semester when the pandemic struck.
Our last in person session was on March 19, 2020. On March 20, California went into lockdown.
As many of you probably did, I watched with great concern as PCC and every other school transitioned overnight to distance learning. My heart went out to all those faculty members who had to learn so many new skills with virtually no advance warning. It must have been a herculean task. Talk about stress!!
At the Pasadena Senior Center, the spring semester also transitioned to Zoom. I sat it out.
As almost any teacher will attest, the single most enjoyable aspect of the profession is the personal interaction – in class and beyond – with the students and colleagues. Zoom allows just a pale imitation of these interactions.
I enjoyed sitting in my rocking chair on my front porch (isn’t that what retirees are supposed to do?) as spring turned to early summer. But I missed the new friends and stimulating discussions I had enjoyed through my classes at the PSC.
In July 2020, I relented. I downloaded Zoom, had a couple of training sessions from the tech guru at the PSC and began a remote discussion group in July.
We call it, “Making sense of the news.” If that is even possible these days, it is a heavy lift.
But, it has been worth it. As I was repeatedly assured, it is better than nothing. We were a small group (just six) over the summer, but at least there was no fire or smoke on Zoom. We would spend an hour a week catching up, comparing notes and following the major topics everyone was talking about.
As the pandemic lockdown dragged on and California endured a particularly brutal surge over the winter, I continued the weekly zoom sessions with my senior citizen friends and it became my favorite hour of the week. It was our link to each other, sanity and a chance to keep up with the world.

California “reopened” five days ago! June 15, 2021 is a day we’ll al remember for the rest of our lives.
Our last Zoom session was three days ago, on Thursday. Through no prior arrangement, it just so happened that the very first social even at the Pasadena Senior Center started an hour after the Zoom class ended. I jumped in my car and drove the 10 minutes across town.
A wonderful surprise awaited me. Three “students” who had joined in on Zoom over the previous six months were in attendance, no masks required. We whooped as we joyfully hugged each other.
A hug is a wonderful thing to rediscover after more than a year without one. You can’t get one unless you also give one!
A triumph of the human spirit.

Click here to check out my brand new SubStack website.



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