AARP Eye Center
By Janice Brewster
By midmorning on Tuesdays, Rhonda Mangieri, 63, is already in the pool in Fairfield, kicking, gliding and floating on her back with encouragement from a swim instructor. For Mangieri, finally learning to swim comfortably in deep water was a goal she set after attending Life Reimagined, an AARP program.
After retiring from her career in human resources last year, Mangieri, of Symmes Township, began training to be a Life Reimagined guide, to lead the program’s Checkup sessions. When it came to answering the question about what was next for her, swimming lessons topped the list.
Launched by AARP in 2012, the program helps people navigate through times of personal and professional transition, with tools and content for choosing the next steps in life. Through the free Checkups, participants take stock of their experiences, identify their skills and values, and begin to plan for the future—all in the company of other people in similar circumstances.
After attending a Checkup in June in Sharonville, Mary Ann Terlinden, 68, is focusing on busting clutter in the suburban Cincinnati town house where she’s lived for 22 years. Jettisoning accumulated paperwork and stored items is just the first step.
“Once I’m finished, my family will know what’s left will either be important and worth consideration of keeping, or meaningful and nostalgic to me,” she said. Then, encouraged by the Checkup, Terlinden plans to explore volunteer opportunities.
Brenda Rebsch, 57, who also attended the Checkup, is starting a similar journey by organizing memorabilia. “My plan is to make scrapbooks for each of my two kids this winter, and possibly one for me,” she said. “Then make the hard choice to get rid of the rest.”
Eventually, she wants to downsize enough to move into an RV with her husband and travel.
From the impetus to get rid of acquired things to the inspiration to try new experiences, the outcomes of a Checkup vary with each participant.
Goals can be large or small. The session is “a free resource to help you dig deeper,” Mangieri said, “to start to feel comfortable with being uncomfortable.”
Dozens of Checkups have been held in the Greater Cincinnati area since the program launched there in 2014. During the workshops, a volunteer guide and a complimentary journal/workbook help participants reflect and take inventory, connect with encouraging people and weigh options.
“This course is about hitting the pause button,” Mangieri said, “and taking time to explore.”
The Checkup goes on to cover choosing to make a change, accepting possible trade-offs and, finally, taking action.
The journal clarifies steps along the way and encourages a mind-set of curiosity and courage.
Because people learn from other people’s stories, Mangieri shows one or two Life Reimagined videos at each session. The recorded accounts provide inspiration, she said, but every participant has his or her own story.
“I know I’m not the only one going through the emotions,” Terlinden said of retirement. She found validation in being surrounded by like-minded people at the Checkup. “What I came away with was encouragement to really think about what I wanted the future to be.”
“Pursuing Passion and Purpose,” a Life Reimagined event, will be held Saturday, Oct. 17, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., at the Sharonville Convention Center, 11355 Chester Road. The event will feature Chris Gardner, author of The Pursuit of Happyness, which was made into a movie, along with several workshops.
It’s a paid event open to people of all ages. For information on the October event and local Checkups, go to aarp.org/cincinnati.
For additional resources, including LifeMap—fun exercises with access to online coaches—and the Life Reimagined book, go to lifereimagined.org.
Janice Brewster is a writer living in Cincinnati.