Vocational Fulfillment in Your Golden Years

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Janice Pliner. Photo Courtesy.

Many adult education instructors are retirees who are pursuing new vocations they are passionate about and eager to share with lifelong learners.

Washington Metro Oasis, a nonprofit continuing education program based in Bethesda, draws educators who likely worked, raised a family and prepared for financial stability before embarking on a new path post-retirement.

“Now they have the time and space to pursue subjects that are of great interest to them,” says Oasis program manager Janice Pliner. “They come to it with just a pure love of the topic.”

Some consider it a second or third career. Travel instructor, Barbara Paulson, 64, calls her latest incarnation her “encore.” For the past three years, she has lectured and led discussions on traveling off the beaten path.

Eight years ago, she retired from a 30-year-career as a management consultant with a Fortune 50 firm. “I combined my prior experiences in that industry doing training programs with a lifelong love of travel.

“This was not what I expected to be doing at all when I stepped off that hamster wheel,” says Paulson of Germantown.

As a younger adult, she took every possible opportunity to travel when work permitted. Her training at putting together an effective PowerPoint presentation and being a public speaker led her to believe she could teach others about nontraditional travel.

She has collected tons of travel tips. “If you’re going to Paris, you can go to the Louvre or how about the home and studio of one of the most famous 18th century French painters, Eugène Delacroix.”

Another insider tip is avoid changing planes in metropolitan New York, she says.

Paulson brings history and insight to people who may or may not travel.

She takes four international trips a year and multiple domestic trips.

“I love exploring these places and bringing them to the greater public,” says Paulsen, who teaches classes of 10 to 25 students.

“I feel very experienced and comfortable with travel and I’m able to encourage
other people.”

Adrienne Hausman, 70, brings her love of essential oils and the benefits of aromatherapy to her classes through Oasis, Montgomery College, Montgomery and Howard counties and at senior centers.

Hausman of Bethesda raised a family and held various part-time jobs like writing abstracts for the government. Fourteen years ago, she became interested in aromatherapy. Four years later she retired to pursue it full-time.

“I was always interested in wellness and alternative medicine. I went to one wellness center and saw all these little adorable bottles and wondered what they are good for.”

She attended the East-West School for Herbal and Aromatic Studies and received her certification in Westminster, Maryland.

Then she began teaching and selling products at health fairs and holiday trade shows. She offered a popular course she called the “Pain Connection.” She’s added a dozen more topics to her curriculum starting with an introductory course. Other classes include inflammation, brain health and addictions.

“I was hooked on that because I think I like teaching better than anything. It’s very fulfilling and the students are great. I learn so much from them.”

Soon she was making money for her teaching. “I was amazed that they would pay me for this.”

The reward comes from knowing she has helped her students. “They’ll just tell me, ‘I always use sandalwood to calm down.’ I love to hear their stories. It’s a real sharing environment.”

At home, most of her drawers have been repurposed to fit her wide inventory of aromatherapy bottles. “It’s a challenge. Maybe someone who is better organized could figure it out.”

Kathy Hankins, 70, of Silver Spring retired in 2016. She was a systems engineer with Northrop Grumman Corp. She had a plan “to lead another kind of life.”

At the time she was a classical and jazz singer, performing part-time. She added instruction in yoga and meditation to her offerings.

“My focus was on seniors and helping people,” says Hankins, who teaches through Oasis and other continuing education organizations.

As a defense contractor, she led a structured life. “It wasn’t the softest kind of environment. So, my goal was to have a life that was helping and caring.”

She has practiced yoga since the 1970s. In 2014, she received her teaching certification. Around that time, she started motivational speaking.

“I wanted to let seniors know that you don’t have to buy into the societal belief of what you should be, that you should be who you are and what you feel like. So, those are the things I’ve been cultivating since I retired in 2016.”

The teaching brings Hankins a sense of fulfillment. “I connect with people. I don’t have to carry the baggage of liking or disliking or being angry. I can pleasantly do what I need to do. I didn’t get the pleasure that I get out of it now.”

Hankins says she has more work than she can handle. She just performed a series of daytime concerts at senior living venues. Hausman’s recommendation to other retirees considering a new hobby or business is “to love what you’re doing. I don’t want to ever stop because I’m learning so much. I never stop taking classes.”

Hausman advises people to start their new hobby or career before retiring. “Take courses, add to your knowledge, then act on it.”

Paulson recommends to anyone considering a career in retirement that they come up with ideas that meet three criteria: “Find something you are proud of, what you’re good at and that you enjoy. Whether it’s gardening, baking or military history, there are people out there who want to hear about it.”

The advice Hankins would give to people considering a new life in retirement is “go for it. If there’s something that you were dying to do, never think you’re too old to
do it. Never think it’s too late. Be adventurous.”

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