Augusta retirees stay active

When work stops, new challenges arise

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Retirement didn’t slow Mary Ann Ergle one bit.

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In addition to leading exercise classes at Sand Hills, Ergle volunteers in the community center's nutrition department and works with United Way and her church's food bank.  EMILY ROSE BENNETT/STAFF
In addition to leading exercise classes at Sand Hills, Ergle volunteers in the community center's nutrition department and works with United Way and her church's food bank.

Never one to sit around the house, the 80-year-old Ergle started teaching aerobics to seniors. She enjoyed it so much, she’s done it for 18 years now.

“It’s been good for me,” she said. “Not only for their health, but for mine, too.”

Retirement is a big change, especially for anyone used to a hectic work schedule.

It can be worse for men because many of them are accustomed to being in a position of power in the workplace. But at home, their wives are often calling the shots, said Dr. Sabina Widner, the chairwoman of the psychology department at Georgia Regents UniversityAugusta State University whose interests and research include aging issues.

Boredom, loneliness and depression can set in quickly whether you’re male or female. Many new retirees also struggle with maintaining a sense of usefulness and meaning.

But retirement only means an end to work. It doesn’t have to mean an end to life. With advances in medicine, some people might be retired longer than they’ve been in the workforce.

Making the transition can be difficult, but a little planning can make it a lot smoother.

Widner recommends stepping down gradually, if your company allows you to. That means cutting back to part-time, leaving yourself more time to develop other interests outside of the workplace.

Gil Hayes gave some thought to his retirement from the Army in 2000. Not only was he facing life without work, he had the added challenge of transitioning back into civilian life from the rigid structure of military life.

“One of the things we’re all told when we retired was not to stop doing what you’re doing,” he said.

He likened retirement to going 100 miles per hour and then stopping suddenly.

“There is a correlation between being active and how long you’ll be here after you retire,” he said.

Hayes knew he wanted to remain active, but he also knew he didn’t want to join the civilian workforce. He found his sense of purpose by volunteering for SCORE, a nonprofit organization that mentors small- business owners.

It was different from the administrative work he performed at Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center, but the work ignited in him a desire to help others, and he has worked his way up to a director position.

Hayes is also developing a personal interest by taking guitar lessons at Augusta State and through the Veterans Administration.

Ergle worked as a receptionist for a psychiatrist at Fort Gordon for 21 years. She retired 28 years ago after she developed an inner ear disorder that caused her to have trouble with her balance.

“I couldn’t sit at my desk,” she said.

She said she was happy to retire and has never had the concerns that typically plague new retirees. She also planned to stay active.

“I started thinking right after I retired, ‘You need to get yourself out of the house,’” she said.

“If you don’t (get out and stay active), you’re going to go home and sit on the couch. I’m a firm believer that if you sit down like that you’re going to die quicker.”

In addition to teaching aerobics, Ergle teaches an exercise class for those with limited mobility, volunteers in the nutrition department at the Sand Hills Community Center, the United Way and her church’s food bank.

Kathleen Ernce is eligible for retirement, but she isn’t ready to make that transition yet, so she remains the executive director of the Senior Citizens Council.

Through the council, she helps retirees find volunteer opportunities. She said there is no shortage of work to be done.

“Retirees need to feel that they are still needed and valuable to the community,” she said.

A few volunteer opportunities her office has helped coordinate include ushering at the symphony, working booths at the Arts in the Heart of Augusta festival, socializing with pets, and helping the Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Greater Augusta Chamber of Commerce.

Ernce said through volunteerism, everybody wins.

“The organization receives an extra set of eyes, ears, hands and feet. The volunteers see the outcome or success of their efforts,” she said.

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JustLilMe 10/07/12 - 04:19 am
Huh? An 80 year old starts

Huh? An 80 year old starts teaching exercise classes and has done so for 18 years- that would make her 98!?? That surely would be amazing!
Or was this beginning sentence just poorly written, and the woman in question actually started teaching at 62?

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