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A group of retirees gathers monthly to tell their ‘elder stories’

Posted on 18 December 2018 by calvin

Members of the monthly discussion group Elder Voices gathered on the last Friday of November at Turtle Bread in Longfellow. Their next meeting date is Jan. 25, and they welcome newcomers to come and share their “elder story.” (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

A group of retirees gathers at Turtle Bread in the Longfellow neighborhood on the last Friday of every month from 10-11:30am to ask the question, “What has been your elder story?” That question can bring up as many different responses as there are people gathered around the table, but there does tend to be a common thread.

A newcomer to the November gathering put it best: “If I were to give out one piece of advice, it would be that you really need to have a plan for retirement. Not just a financial plan, but also a plan for how to use your time wisely.” She continued, “I had a great career as an elementary school teacher, but decided to take fairly early retirement. My adult children didn’t live nearby, and most of my friendships were connected with my job. It was kind of a rough transition into retirement. I’ve landed on my feet by being involved in the community. I’m a tutor at Hiawatha Elementary, where my granddaughter goes. I participate in a knitting group and a book club at the Nokomis Library. One of the best things I ever did was to join OLLI (the Osher Institute for Lifelong Learning) at the U of M. OLLI offers hundreds of courses each year in history, art, and architecture, science, business, economics, world cultures, and more. Enrollment costs $240/year, and you can take an unlimited number of classes.”

This informal exchange of ideas and resources is what fuels Elder Voices, and it can help people whose retirement plan is still in progress. The group is fairly small: Don Hammen, Marcea Mariani, and DeWayne Townsend are the core members. The three had been meeting monthly for breakfast for years and found themselves gravitating toward issues of retirement and aging.

Hammen got the idea to make their breakfast group public after participating in a project last summer called Multicultural Elder Dialogues. He was one of 300+ diverse elders across the state who gathered to answer questions about physical and mental health, access to health care, housing, safety, economic security, family relationships, transportation and mobility, and the importance of community. “That experience made me wonder why don’t we have a forum to discuss these kinds of questions in our own neighborhood,” Hammen said.

Mariani, who is a past board treasurer and president for the Longfellow Community Council, added, “While some people fall into a natural rhythm with retirement, many do not. If there is a void, as we call it, a group like Elder Voices can be a comfortable place to ask questions or offer help to others.”

Elder Voices will continue to meet monthly in 2019, with the next meeting Jan. 25, and newcomers are welcome. They hope to eventually share some of their stories and concerns with the City of Minneapolis Advisory Committee on Aging.
Turtle Bread is located at 4205 E. 34th St.