Treasuring Work at Age 75

I have worked in the field of geriatric social work for 40 years in a variety of settings: senior center, nonprofit mental health organizations, private psychiatric hospitals, assisted living, long-term care, dementia-specific facilities and a cancer nonprofit. When I was in grad school, there weren’t any courses focusing on geriatrics, so I learned by attending workshops, conferences and reading as often as I could. I found I had a preference for dementia patients and their families/caregivers and developed several training programs for family and professional caregivers.

I have seen many changes in the way older adults are cared for over the years, mainly focusing on patient-centered care. Also, there are now more housing options, programs for travel, volunteering and socialization. Of course, people are living longer than before, and most are living an active lifestyle. There were no separate memory care facilities nor memory care units within facilities; dementia patients were thrown in with the general population. But these patients needed extremely specific programming and safe and secure areas in which to wander.

I retired in July 2016. I discovered that as a widow, retirement looked entirely different than what my husband and I had planned. So, I started volunteering at various organizations, but how much volunteering can one do?

‘As a widow, retirement looked entirely different than what my husband and I had planned.’

After nine months, I was offered a part-time position at the University of North Texas Health Science Center in the Department of Internal Medicine and Geriatrics. This came about while I was enjoying lunch with the medical director of the Geriatrics Department, and she handed me a piece of paper, saying, “Just read the job description that is highlighted.”

I did and it was to serve as the project coordinator for a research project that one of the geriatricians was developing for three area nursing homes—and it was part-time! Working 24 hours a week gave me time to pursue other interests and to continue volunteering.

Once that project was completed, we received a private foundation grant to develop an education and support program for family caregivers of dementia patients. My favorite areas! I also get to work with social work students, medical students and public health students.

I started working at age 34, worked mostly part-time until all my children were in school, then transitioned to full time. I never felt that I was the oldest employee and most of my supervisors were considerably younger than I was.

As an older worker, I believe I was more settled, without all of the social and family aspects younger employees faced. I have always been nicknamed the “Resident Jewish Mother” among my coworkers; the one they all come to for advice and suggestions. I never felt discriminated against because of my age. I love what I do and hope to continue this work for several more years. No retirement plans on my horizon currently. I am in good health for a 75-year-old, so I hope to keep stimulating my brain and sharing my knowledge for a long time to come.