Gazette Forum: Advice for the under-occupied elder

Last modified: Wednesday, March 19, 2014

EDITOR’S NOTE: A Feb. 27 letter from an Easthampton man, “People 60 and over deserve a life, too,” prompted strong reaction.

The writer lamented at the outset that “Many men and women are getting up in age. We all sit at home, sometimes wondering what to do with ourselves.” He acknowledged that he can read, play cards and watch TV, but expressed a wish for more. “We who are 60 and over don’t want to be treated like our lives are over. We want to do things we like and to feel like life is worth living. We want to feel useful.” He appealed for physical fitness programs to be more open to those over 60.

Today, we share responses from readers.

Older Americans 
need to get physical

Hooray, at last someone else has put to print what I have had on my mind for some time now. Why are there only senior programs for card-playing, crafts, mild exercise, etc., and no real physical activities? I recently took up golf and love it! I take ballroom dance lessons, would love to find a tennis partner and take up volleyball again. Granted at 60-plus you move in accordance with your physical abilities, but if you want to try it, why is there no way to do it? The COA in every town offers wonderful programs, but there are no physical or sport activities offered.

Online there are dodge ball clubs that are offered, but unfortunately not in this area. Local colleges love older students to attend, but I do not think anyone has offered the activities we really want to do.

The letter-writer nailed it with his observations. I maintain my own home, garden, and read. Like the writer, these are rather sedate at times and interaction with other people who desire more physical activities are not available. As said, you can only read, sew, clean and plant flowers so many times. I love the physical aspect of being involved with movement and the health benefits are an added plus.

Maybe there are programs available that I am not aware of or maybe someone has a suggestion on what could be done to encourage availability.

Judy Mathers


It’s time to answer 
call of the volunteer

In answer to the gentleman who bewails the circumstance of the “over 60s” who must sit at home and wonder what to do with themselves, I hope that I can give him a few ideas.

Of course we all need to feel needed. And what a great opportunity that we have now, to volunteer at the venue of our choice. Since I retired from teaching at a local college I have been volunteering in many different places, each giving me so much pleasure in the doing, and knowing that it helps others and gives me the satisfaction of giving back to the society that I love.

Ah, such beautiful opportunity! Time to read and learn a musical instrument that you didn’t have time for before. Time to travel, either in reality or on the PBS travel channels. Time to learn to cook things that you never tried before. Time — that precious commodity that we all cherish.

I celebrated my 80th birthday two years ago and I look forward to the many things that I finally have time to do.

Your friend who wanted to become a storyteller has all the opportunity that he wishes. I hope he follows his bliss and becomes a new storyteller that we will love.

You are never too old to try something new, or to return to an old skill and refurbish it to fit into the 21st century.

Look around you and be so grateful that you live in this beautiful, creative Valley and that you have finally reached that wonderful age where you can explore anything you want and make your final 20 years or so the very best of your long life.

Lynne Knudsen


Valley region is rich 
with options for retirees

I found this writer’s letter personally offensive, beginning with his statement that all of us over 60 “sit at home.” He is contributing to a negative stereotype. Since my retirement nearly a decade ago my days include volunteering for Cooley Dickinson Hospital, the Trustees of Reservations and Dakin Humane Society among other worthy nonprofit organizations.

I attend yoga classes weekly — something I have done for 40 years, and even find time to go to the gym, hike and snowshoe. Did I mention that I also write poetry and manage my husband’s business? He is 73 and began his business when he retired 13 years ago. Most of my friends are similarly active, volunteering for such groups as CISA and the Kestrel Trust.

Our Valley is rich with opportunities for people of all ages. I respectfully suggest that the writer get off his couch and join us in living what Jane Fonda has termed “The Third Act.”

Marianne Gambaro


Reports that she’s over 60 
and never busier

This letter struck a chord. My husband (who is over 70) and I (over 60), are both retired and seeking ways to have a fulfilling life. We hope that the writer will explore some of the many opportunities for seniors available in the Valley. The Learning in Retirement program is exactly that, offering classes organized by the participants, focusing on topics chosen by participants. (Storytelling, anyone?)

The YMCA in Northampton offers senior discounts on memberships and has free classes that seniors enjoy. As a member, you can drop in and try a class — perhaps find out about “tai chi” that was recommended to you as an alternative to martial arts.

At the Y, we see a lot of grey hair! The best deal in town is the ability to audit lecture classes at Smith College for only $50 per semester. Search on the college’s website for “auditing.”

Dust off that old musical instrument that is stored in the attic and take lessons. Join The AEIO Ukes, a ukulele club whose youngest member is in elementary school and its oldest well into their 70s. (Contact Joe Blumenthal at Downtown Sounds in Northampton.) Got a green thumb? Become a Master Gardener by enrolling in their program.

Interested in photography? Contact the Hill Institute in Florence. Like to read detective stories? There is a Mystery Book Group at Forbes Library.

Like the outdoors? Jump on a bicycle and explore the bike trails from Easthampton to Amherst. The list goes on and on. We joke that if there is something you want to learn, there is someone in the Valley ready to teach you. But, best of all, volunteer your services to an organization in your community.

If you can drive a car, you can deliver meals for Meals on Wheels or pick up food donations for the Food Bank. The public schools can always use volunteers. Your place of worship certainly knows of volunteer opportunities. There is nothing like giving back to your community to feel useful!

Alison Kriviskey


Rewards of volunteering are many for retirees

In response to the recent letter to the editor, and particularly his sentiment of people over 60 wanting to feel useful, I would highly recommend volunteering! As the Volunteer Coordinator for the Northampton Survival Center, an emergency food pantry dedicated to improving the quality of life for low-income families and individuals throughout Hampshire County, I know firsthand how rewarding and satisfying volunteering can be.

At the Northampton Survival Center we make our volunteers feel welcomed, appreciated, socially connected, and they in turn know they are making a huge difference in the lives of fellow community members. It’s a win-win peppered with dignity and respect among us all. I would highly recommend to anyone of any age that Volunteerism will make you feel over the top with usefulness! For more information on volunteering at the Northampton Survival Center, please visit our website, like us on Facebook and/or contact Diane at

Diane Drohan


Diane Drohan is the volunteer coordinator with the Northampton Survival Center.


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