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Finding fulfillment in a Life Reimagined

07.07.14 Bill Schwarber (cropped)

By Deb Jaquith                                                                                                                                      AARP Experience Corps

Bill Schwarber enjoyed a long career as a special education teacher in Solon City schools.

"As an educator of children, the 30-year retirement carrot was dangled in front of me. In my mind this was too hard to pass on. So I bit. I enjoyed my new life.”

An avid cyclist, he and his wife logged several thousand miles in 45 states. He also enjoyed cooking, fishing, home-remodeling, and gardening. But he knew he wanted to do something more. “[I] very soon realized that I probably have 30 more, great and productive, years in me. I decided to seek out a second career, or at least part-time work to keep me active."

Mr. Schwarber found his second career through, an organization dedicated to making it easier for millions of people to pursue second acts for the greater good. Schwarber was able to secure an Encore fellowship through the Cleveland Foundation.

He now works for Greater Cleveland Volunteers helping recruit volunteers for AARP Experience Corps, an in-school tutoring program that utilizes retirees to tutor elementary children falling behind in reading. The time-limited fellowship matches Schwarber’s skills and background with a social-change organization that is nearly doubling in size over the next three years.

Many Boomers Seeking Something New

Schwarber’s experience is not uncommon among boomers, who are increasingly seeking what’s next as they reach retirement. In fact, there is such an interest that AARP has begun to offer tips on creating a “ Life Reimagined” as they begin approaching traditional retirement age. Traditional retirement just doesn’t engage this generation of retirees.

While boomers’ parents were nearly through their careers by age 55, today 1 in 5 US workers is over 55 and planning to stay active much longer than generations before them. This opens a realm of possibilities for those in the 50+ set as they move into this stage of life. Life Reimagined helps people discover a renewed sense of purpose after retirement by using their life experience to achieve their goals and dreams. It connects people to the resources they need, including employers, start-up businesses, and volunteer opportunities.

Volunteering with Children Creates Joy

07.07.14 Maxine Johnson CU (cropped)

Maxine Johnson had a passion for education for many years. When she retired, she knew she wanted to use some of her time to teach people to read. That desire connected her with AARP Experience Corps volunteer opportunities offered through Greater Cleveland Volunteers. Ms. Johnson now shares her love of learning in a third-grade classroom at Mound Elementary school in Cleveland, helping children improve their reading skills.

“It’s just a pleasure when you know that once you’ve helped a child read a book and understand the words and the meaning, you see a light go on in their eyes,’” Johnson says, “ It’s so rewarding for both [of] you.” Though she admits being apprehensive at first, she recalled a time (early on) when she knew she made a difference for one student. Ms. Johnson encouraged the student to challenge herself with more difficult books every time they read together, and when she finished the school year, the third grade who had been struggling with reading student was at a 4.5 grade level.

Ms. Johnson believes older adults have something special to offer, and she knows she has helped children achieve success that will help them through their whole life. When she speaks of her new phase of life, “It’s what I imagined it would be. I love doing this. I don’t think I would trade this in for anything else,” Ms. Johnson said, “It is, as you say, a life reimagined.”

Find the resources you need to pursue your passions and discover your life reimagined. For more information about volunteering with AARP Experience Corps or Greater Cleveland Volunteers, contact (216) 391-9500 or

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