Playing a good balance: Bernie Mayer

by | Feb 2, 2023 | Trending News

Jewish News: Where are you from and where were you educated?

Bernie Mayer: I am from Cincinnati, Ohio. My undergraduate degree was from Miami University (Ohio), and I completed my Master of Science in Social Work at The University of Louisville (Kent School of Social Work).

JN: When and why did you move to Tidewater?

BM: My wife, Debbie, and I moved to the area in 1982. I had secured employment at The Barry-Robinson Center as a counselor.

JN: What was your work history?

BM: For the last 20 years of my career, I was a Liaison Counselor with the Southeastern Cooperative Educational Programs (Secep). I worked in both Virginia Beach and Chesapeake. My school programs served children with an emotional disability. Experiences prior to this included employment in residential treatment with children. Also, prior to graduate school I was employed as a youth counselor at a community center in the inner city of Cincinnati (1976-1977).

JN: When did you retire?

BM: June 2014

JN: What convinced you to take the leap?

BM: I realized during my last year of employment that I had given all that I could give, and I needed a change.

JN: Did you have a plan for what you would do with your time?

BM: I had a partial plan which included: I would increase my musical performance (I started performing in a band when I was 14 years old, usually playing Bar/Bat Mitzvah parties for folks a year younger). Another idea was to increase my time to exercise. Finally, I knew that I would do some volunteering. I just did not have a plan yet where I would volunteer. I decided to take that first summer off and just rest. Then in the fall, I started thinking about where I would volunteer.

JN: You’re a musician, did you desire more freedom to play and entertain?

BM: I wanted to increase my performing, but not substantially. I realized that I could do more during the week if I desired. Presently I perform in a duo a couple of times a month at an area restaurant. I play the guitar and violin. I am also participating in a co-songwriting project with Gene Lempert, a local songwriter.

JN: Where are you volunteering? Do you have a favorite place?

BM: I volunteer at several places, through different organizations:

• Jewish Family Service Meals on Wheels since 2014. In addition, I’ve volunteered with JFS (other programs) for more than 25 years (as needed).

• Prime Plus Adult Day Services in Norfolk since 2014 (I sing to the participants and I have read to them in the past). I am there two days every week for one hour each time. Also for two years I have performed one hour a week at the M.E.Cox Center, also a program of Prime Plus.

• BeAR (Be a Reader) at Williard Elementary School in Norfolk.

• Kroc Center two days a week, assisting children with their homework and sitting in on their music program.

• ForKids on an occasional basis. In the past I participated in their after-school homework program.

Each of the volunteer activities is equally special to me. I really enjoy singing to seniors very much.

JN: Do you use your professional skills in some of your volunteer work?

BM: I am applying my knowledge of working with people to each activity. It allows me to be patient and empathetic. Of course, having the musical background has assisted in performing at the senior programs.

I try to set aside time to exercise throughout the week. Also, I have days where I do not go anywhere and do not keep to a schedule. During those times I listen to music or watch sports shows. I think a good balance of activities and non-activities is important in retirement. Sometimes I have lunch with former co-workers, as well.

JN: Did you start walking with your friend after you retired?

BM: One of my weekly activities is walking with a good friend with whom I worked for many years. We started walking together after we both retired. It is something that both of us try very hard not to miss.

JN: What about travel? Are you and Debbie able to hit the road more often?

BM: What is most significant is that since I was no longer restricted to just summer, spring and winter breaks, we are able to travel in the fall or spring. We have increased our travel time since I retired.

JN: What has been a favorite destination?

BM: We have enjoyed going to music festivals in the eastern part of North America. We have especially enjoyed going to Florida and Canada for festivals.

JN: In general, are you glad you retired? Do you ever miss working?

BM: I am very glad that I retired. I believe the volunteering that I am doing is sufficiently taking the place of the desire to be working. I get a lot of satisfaction from still helping others. Also, being able to apply my musical ability is appealing.

JN: Do you feel any healthier? Less stressed?

BM: The answer to both is “Yes!” I have much more time to walk/work out and sometimes see other retired folks who are my friends.

JN: Do you have any advice for someone considering retirement?

BM: The main thing I would say is to really weigh the pros and cons of retiring (don’t be impulsive about the decision). Try to imagine yourself retired and then decide if that is something you could live with at this time and in the next few years. Talk it over with others that have been retired and see what their experience has been (both good and bad).

JN: Last comments?

BM: After retirement take a lot of time to decide the next step(s). Volunteering has really worked for me.

Terri Denison