by Jody Kerzman
For the first time in 29 years, Deb Ahmann isn’t getting ready for the first day of school. That’s because, after nearly three decades of teaching kindergarten, Deb decided to retire.
“I loved teaching and I loved my students, but it was time,” says Ahmann. “I still have my health and so I thought it would be nice to retire while I’m still able to be active and enjoy myself.”
Ahmann’s husband retired a few years ago and has been anxious for her to join him. The couple has a home in Arizona, but until now, Deb hasn’t been able to spend much time there. She’s got that at the top of her retirement to-do list.
“I have a list of projects too. I’m sorting through my school stuff now, getting it set up for my grandkids to use when they visit,” says Ahmann. “I have many years worth of photos I want to sort through. I love to read and take walks and I’m also learning to golf, so I have lots of things to keep me busy.”
She also plans to get more involved with the Lions Club, a group she’s been a part of for the past 12 years. But not everyone is as prepared for the free time that comes with retirement. In fact, the fear of the unknown keeps many people working well past retirement age.
“A lot of baby boomers, people in their 60s, are still working full or part time simply because they’re not quite sure how to stay busy once they don’t have to work,” explains Renee Kipp, Director of the Burleigh County Senior Adults Program.
Kipp says most of the people who come to events at the Burleigh County Senior Center are between the ages of 70 and 79. They serve meals to about 1,800 people at the center and deliver meals to another 500. While she’s happy with those numbers, Kipp says she’d really like to get more retirees to the center.
“We can definitely serve more people, and we’d love to see more here,” says Kipp. “It’s healthy for seniors to get out and socialize. Isolation is a bad thing for older people. We offer a variety of activities designed to keep seniors mentally and physically sharp.”
Exercise classes, card games like pinochle and bridge, wood carving, bingo, line dancing and Bunco are just a few of the activities offered. The senior center also offers health maintenance; clients can receive foot care, get their blood pressure or blood sugar checked, and get help organizing medications. Clients pay only what they can afford.
And for retirees who are used to filling their days with work, there are plenty of volunteer opportunities available, including answering phones, working at the coffee bar, working in the gift shop, helping prepare meals for home delivery, and delivering meals. Kipp says seniors take these tasks very seriously, and for many, the volunteer jobs they take on are the one thing that get them out of the house each day.
“We have one volunteer who is probably close to 90 years old. She lives just up the street and walks to the center each day. She volunteers in the morning, either in the coffee bar or helping with the meals. She putters around here in the morning, and in the afternoon she walks home and takes her nap. We are her family; she doesn’t have anyone else and I really think that if she didn’t have us, she would be home alone all day and would probably be gone by now.”
In fact, several studies have found that seniors who socialize regularly decrease their chances of senility, dementia, and depression. Spending time with others also gives seniors a sense of relevance and fulfillment. That’s good news for new retirees like Deb Ahmann. She has every intention of being just as active in retirement as she was in her nearly 30 year teaching career.
To learn more about the services available at the Burleigh County Senior Center, visit bismarckseniorcenter.org or call 701-255-4648.