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TOPIC: Older Adults in Action

Living to Teach
Based on an essay written by Joan Zald.

Albine Bech, 79, lives near San Francisco and actively explores her lifelong dream of teaching others. After the liberation of France in World War II, Beck secured an office job with the U.S. Army. It was there that she met her future husband—an American G.I. She followed the young man to the United States, where they settled in Iowa and started a family. After 12 years of marriage, Bech divorced her husband and returned to France with their three children. Eventually she settled back in the United States. “Fifteen years ago I took a Tai Chi class and became good at that, and the instructor asked me to help teach classes. I found out then that I am good at teaching. I’ve been trained to teach seniors how to use a new technology—WebTV. I had eight students, and I loved doing it and had very good results.” Bech has five grandchildren and one great grandchild. She is looking forward to her 80th birthday celebration with her family and a large circle of friends.

Excerpted from Experience: Exciting Career in Social Work and Aging

A Second Career

At the age of 60, Carol Harris-Mannes, earned a Master’s degree in social work from Columbia University—and began a second career at The Actors’ Fund of America, where she provides social services for the Phyllis Newman Women’s Health Initiative. “You have to feel useful and productive as you age,” says Harris-Mannes. “I returned to school after a successful entertainment industry career as a way of figuring out how to move on productively in my life.” Harris-Mannes created a peer support group for women in the entertainment industry who are aging. The group meets twice a year for an eight-week period each time and has been highly successful in helping women make one of the most difficult transitions in their lives. “I’m quite proud of this achievement,” Harris-Mannes says. “I have built up the program to not only assist women with their serious medical issues, but to help them find therapists to deal with their mental health issues.” “One of the biggest misconceptions people have about older adults,” observes Harris-Mannes, now 68, “is that our brains and bodies no longer function well, that we aren’t as capable as younger folks. It’s absolutely not true.”

Excerpted from Experience: Exciting Career in Social Work and Aging

A Turning Point
Based on an essay written by Joan Zald.

John Chan, 89, has been a professional photographer for almost 15 years, and his work has been recognized around the world. “I’ve exhibited in China and England,” says Chan. “And in 1993, I was recognized as a Fellow at the Royal Photography Society of Great Britain.” Chan’s first career was with the California Highway Department, Caltrans, where he worked for 29 years as a draftsman and assistant project engineer. He also served in the U.S. Army Signal Corps during World War II. It was retirement that Chan cites as the turning point in his life. “I retired in 1980, the same year I received an AA degree in photography from the College of San Mateo. I later entered one of my student photos in a contest at the San Mateo County Fair. It won the Best in Show award, and that turned my life around.” Besides photography, Chan exercises regularly, doing Luk Tung Kuen, a martial art, every morning for an hour. He also hikes eight miles every week with the Sierra Club. “We do this rain or shine, and it is like a religion to me. I have my share of aches and pains and have a chronic back problem, but I do pretty well for a man who will be 90 this December.”

Excerpted from Experience: Exciting Career in Social Work and Aging

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