(This article originally appeared on the Times of Israel.)
As Geriatric Care Management professionals, we are dedicated to maximizing quality of life for all seniors in Israel. Toward that end, much of the content we write offers information, support and guidance both to those who are aging and to the many more who are supporting aging parents.
On the flip side, in the course of our work, we often have the good fortune to come across incredible seniors. Some live independently, and some do not. Some have completely changed their lives, careers, interests and position in life post age 65, and many have uprooted themselves and relocated to a completely new country, language, culture and community. Many do not consider themselves geriatric in any way, especially the 85-year-old museum director we tried to interview, who insisted that she’s not a senior, encouraged us to do a blog about incredible 30-year-olds, and told us to include her in that one.
Here are five stories that we find inspiring, proving to everyone something that we already knew: after 65, all the rules are suspended and it’s time to make life incredible.
Middle East to Far East: Helping researchers help the world
EDITH BOXMAN, age 68
Edith made Aliyah with her husband after completing her MBA at the Wharton School of Business. She was hired at Bank Leumi and worked in a various analytical and managerial jobs for over 30 years. She accomplished this while playing the supermom game, bearing and raising the couple’s four children.
One might think that for Edith, retirement would mean a well-deserved rest, punctuated by visits with the grandkids and trips to the beach. Well, that’s not the way this couple rolls. Edith’s husband, a professor of engineering at Tel Aviv University, had accrued quite a bit of sabbatical time, allowing them to travel to Australia, the U.S. and New Zealand. While Professor Boxman taught, the Boxmans identified a need that stood unfulfilled throughout the world of foreign academia. Apparently research, innovation and development often become lost due to knowledge not being disseminated properly.
The first 3.5 years of the Boxmans’ retirement was spent writing and developing a program, a book and practical seminars geared toward researchers in the Far East in order to propel their innovation to Western standards of publication, putting them on the map of useful reality for the non-academic world. This project expanded, finding a home through giving repeated courses in China. So now, on top of bettering herself through regular swimming, Israeli folk dancing, hiking, bicycling and faithfully volunteering for the La Leche League, Edith embraces her mission to boost the voices of genius in the world.
The Road From Hi-tech to Art: It’s never too late
DR. BETH EREZ, age 67
Following a high powered, full time marketing career travelling the global map of the hi-tech world, both in large companies and start-ups, at age 63, Dr. Erez (Ph.D. in Information Science) gradually cut down the number of days and hours per week that she was working.
Throughout her career, Dr. Erez held on to her lifelong love of the creativearts. While working full time plus, she found a sculptor willing to give classes on a come-as-you-can schedule, right in his studio. One wonderful, typically Israeli trait is a certain laid-back flexibility that fits perfectly into a demanding and unpredictable work and travel schedule.
Now that she’s retired, Dr. Erez has turned from marketing hi-tech innovation to nourishing her creative innovation. She exhibits and sells her work both online and at various gallery and museum exhibits around the country. Years of travel burnout have been replaced by the drive to create, she’s applying her marketing skills in a new direction.
Some People Retire and Get a Yacht. Instead, They Got Babies
YAEL PUTNEY, age 67
Picture a Jewish Brady Bunch on steroids, and then some… Back in Miami Beach, Yael brought five children from her previous marriage and her husband added his own four. Once married, the couple heard news that Jewish children were being adopted by non-Jewish families, as there weren’t enough Jews interested in adopting. Finding this situation intolerable, they became trained in adoption and foster care. Their relationship with the social services back in Florida brought the couple their four youngest children, all with disabilities of one kind or another, and some with more than one.
Raising a brood of challenged little ones is difficult enough on its own, but Yael was also working full-time on top of that. As the children got closer to entering school, the number crunching around special needs Jewish education alone was a huge push toward their Aliyah. Their youngest daughter, affected by Prader-Willi syndrome, even got a little better through her move to Israel!
Today, at age 67 and with a brand new set of knees, this grandmother of 14 is raring to go! While only two of the older children made Aliyah, the Putney home is full of their younger children, local grandkids and a slew of guests – just how they like it.
Ima Kadima at 73: She does more by 9:00 a.m. than most people do all day
FRAN BRONSTEIN age 73 1/2
Fran arrived in Israel in 1986 from Philadelphia, via Cleveland, to find that in Israel, children are far more independent than their American counterparts. This shift provided her with a new found freedom with which she ran (well, swam) forward… and hasn’t stopped since.
Mrs. Bronstein completed lactation consultant training at Misgav Ladach and has been working in this field for the past 20 years, helping mother after mother through the tough spots of breastfeeding. Never wanting to fall behind, she is continually learning and developing professionally, keeping up with new research, changes and techniques in her field.
To further make sure she “stays out of trouble”, Fran wakes up early, getting her swimming in at 5:30 a.m., five days a week. (Senior discount prices at Israeli pools are fantastic!) She wasn’t the oldest participant at Swim4Sadna, but with 13 grandchildren, all in Israel, she may be the proudest.
Forrest Gump meets Eat, Pray, Love
SHLOMIT GRANTZ, age 70
Shlomit arrived in Israel 22 years ago, but that was only the mid-point to her ongoing, larger-than-life adventure. With a life that included extensive international travel, a search to find a long-lost sister, a temporary role as an international drug smuggler, the opportunity to date Wilt Chamberlain, parties the likes of George Harrison and nearly being kidnapped into slavery, it’s no wonder she’s written a book to chronicle it all.
Having been raised in an abusive home, Shlomit found she had to come up with a new model for life, once she began raising her own children. Sparked by a spiritual string tugging at her heart, tied to the memories of her grandmother lighting Shabbat candles, Shlomit read her children Bible stories and then slowly began observing Shabbat and kashrut. A pilot trip to Israel showed her immediately that she wasn’t a tourist; Israel was her true and rightful home.
Seeing as how drug smuggling was no longer an employment option, she began working as the only woman on staff at a yeshivah. This is where she learned that vital Israeli skill that is a must-use on a daily basis… assertiveness! She has earned respect while learning to be strong without being abrasive. Shlomit’s re-invention of herself is a true lesson to us all.
Broadway Dancer to Grassroots Advocate to Author
JULIA MATI, turns 91 next month!
Twelve years ago, newly widowed in San Diego with a daughter and son-in-law insisting that they just couldn’t leave her behind, Julia kissed her beautiful apartment goodbye, packed up her two dogs, and moved to Israel.
The list of trials that Ms. Mati has endured is extensive and varied, but her gutsy, spry nature has overcome all the adversity the world has thrown at her. Julia is a cancer survivor and has twice been widowed (initially widowed when her daughter was 9 ½) and both of her husbands were forced to leave Europe because of the Holocaust. But Julia has never maintained any interest in wallowing. Instead, she turned her entire life into one string of adventures after another. Dance, drama, romance and an unflappable sense of humor have earned her 19 chapters (so far) in the book that is about to tell her life story. Rightfully, Julia considers herself a survivor. And, if you ask her, she also defines herself both as an Ulpan dropout (aren’t we all?) and a foolish humanitarian directed by her heart for all people and their stories.
When Julia retired from her career as a professional dancer on Broadway and moved West, her grit and empathic nature led her to independently develop and manage a large social services center in San Diego, where she established a 2-room library with memoirs from local Holocaust survivors. She was a consistent advocate for handicapped-accessible transportation and affordable, decent housing for seniors.
Once in Israel, ever ready to better society, Julia went on to establish TOFI (Together One for Israel) together with an Episcopalian minister who shared her goals.
While Julia states that in San Diego, there is now sufficient transport for isolated seniors who don’t have access to regular bus service, she hopes that soon all Israeli seniors, especially those who are frail, will be able to take affordable, comfortable and safe van transport to activities to enable them to take part in social activities.
At a spry 91, the next chapter is just waiting to be written.
This is just the beginning, baby!
Gone is the stereotype of yesteryear’s Granny spending day after day rocking on the porch, watching the world go by. Today in Israel, senior have every opportunity available to grab these years, making them a truly golden age toward chasing and accomplishing their dreams.