By Christina Hernandez Sherwood
When Jacqueline Robinson lost her job as her company downsized in 2009, she sat in her South Brunswick home office feeling unbelievably lost. After three decades in the pharmaceutical industry, she was 55 and had no idea of her next step. “It was overwhelming,” she said.
Robinson wanted to tackle a new pursuit, but she didn’t know what. Then she read Life Reimagined, a book copublished by AARP, and completed some of the program’s online exercises. Robinson’s Life Reimagined profile described her as social, artistic and enterprising.
“It’s so amazing,” she said, “because that’s where I am now.” Robinson, 61, is the owner of JRR Consulting Inc. and leads seminars to help boomer women find their postretirement purpose.
Life Reimagined, the online program that helped Robinson through her career transition, is now offering in-person Checkups in New Jersey. These free two-hour sessions are meant to help anyone at a turning point in life, or someone just trying to look ahead, said Christine Newman, AARP New Jersey associate state director for community outreach.
“People are living such longer and healthier lives that really a new life stage has emerged,” she said. “It’s a stage of possibilities.”
Many Americans in their 50s and 60s aren’t ready for retirement, Newman said. “Instead, they want to start a new business, explore a new passion or move somewhere new.” Others are dealing with the loss of a spouse or a parent.
“Resources for people entering a new life stage or in transition can be difficult to find,” Newman said. “There’s a need to be addressed.”
Life Reimagined Checkups help people take stock of where they are and what they want to do next, Newman said. People of all ages can participate in the sessions. The common thread among participants is that they’re facing a life transition.
“It’s going to speak to someone who wants to make a change in their life,” she said, “and is looking for resources, inspiration and that first step.”
Connecting with others
Typically held at libraries and community centers, the Checkups involve about eight to 20 participants.
“The in-person experiences are so valuable because that’s your opportunity to connect with other people who are in the same place you are,” Newman said. “You’re not alone in this.”
Rose Pillo, of Collingswood, lost her husband in a car accident in 2003, when both were 60. “In the beginning, I would just cry,” she said. When condolence letters came in, “I couldn’t even write out [thank-you] cards.”
In the past 12 years, Pillo faced more transitions. She left her job as a school cook and now works part time as a pet sitter for her daughter’s business. She stayed in her home, and another daughter and her family moved in.
Pillo, 72, read a few books and pamphlets to help her through the loss of her husband, but she largely relied on personal connections. “It was my family and my good friends who kept me busy and kept me going,” she said.
To help people through transitions, Life Reimagined trains volunteer guides. Newman said New Jersey needs volunteers to lead the Checkups, especially people experienced in working with groups who have a strong community network. But anyone with a passion for the subject and the time to be trained is welcome to apply.
Guides complete a one-day training workshop and a Checkup. Then they work in their community networks to schedule Checkups and host events. “The Life Reimagined guides—once they’re trained and comfortable—own this process,” Newman said.
For more information, go to lifereimagined.org. To volunteer as a guide, email email@example.com or call 866-542-8165 toll-free. To register for a Checkup, call 877-926-8300 toll-free.
Christina Hernandez Sherwood is a writer living in Collingswood, NJ.