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For retirees, learning centre ‘fills a gap’ in their lives

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With the current economy being what it is, many older employees are being pushed into retirement before they really intend to go.

For some people, who have worked hard all their lives, this can leave them feeling a little lost and without purpose. However two busy retirees recently told

The Royal Gazette retirement doesn't have to be lonely or boring, in fact it can be the best time in a person's life.

Edith Lightbourne was a clerk at the Transport Control Department (TCD) for more than 20 years when she decided to retire; Joy Lusher ran the well-known agency, Joy Lusher Real Estate Limited. They've both been retired for some time now, but neither is resting on their laurels. They both keep their minds sharp by taking classes at the Seniors Learning Centre (SLC) at the Bermuda College.

For Mrs Lightbourne the actual retirement part of retirement was a long time coming.

“My late husband Wilbur and I planned on having a nice quiet retirement,” she said. “But when I retired my nephew and his wife asked me if I would take care of their baby during the day for a couple of weeks. It turned into a couple of years. Then I took care of my great nieces and nephews and their friends' children. I did that for a number of years.”

In fact, she only stopped her day care service last year, when her husband took sick and passed away.

“We were married for 56 years,” said Mrs Lightbourne. “We had always planned to retire together. He was my best friend, and I still miss him.”

After her husband died, she decided she wanted to do something for herself, so she started taking courses at SLC.

“I registered at the SLC to do the computer course,” she said. “I have done two computer courses already and I am about to start another. I hadn't done very much with the computer before the courses.”

In fact, computers were a bit of an obstacle. Before taking the course she felt nervous when confronted with one. But she dealt with that fear and is now getting used to them. Now she tries to get on her home computer every day to try to get familiar with it. She isn't quite yet cruising the internet, but she plans to shortly.

“It is all in the making,” she said. “I want to be able to get on there and look for a website that I am interested in. At the same time as a senior I want to keep busy.”

Mrs Lusher was also learning to cope with computers. She never had them in her office when she was running the business. She retired about 15 years ago.

“At the time, computers were coming in and I was a bit old-fashioned,” she said. “I didn't have any computers. My daughters, Liz and Sue, said I had to get computers.

“After I retired, my daughters took over the business. The next week I went into the office and there were computers on all the desks.”

At home she didn't have one for a long time either, but a friend recently gave her an Ipad. She is slowly coming to learn how to use it. She is proud that she recently skyped her son Nicholas, in New York, and she also read

The Royal Gazette online when the paper version wasn't delivered one morning.

She takes two courses at SLC to stay up on current and world affairs.

“I take a world affairs class on a Thursday,” she said. “It is very interesting. We have many interesting speakers such as [former Premiers] David Saul and [Sir] John Swan. It is a way of learning. How would we know about all of these things unless someone gave us their time? It is very generous of them. I go to the Monday forum every other week. We have very interesting speakers. I would really encourage anyone over the age of 55 to come and join us. There is a lot offered. There are computer classes, yoga, and many other classes. There are also a range of different outings throughout the year.”

She said it was natural for people newly retired to feel lonely and a little lost, after getting up every day at the same time for years.

“Something has been filling their lives and then it is suddenly cut off,” she said. “But it doesn't necessarily have to be lonely. You just have to make an effort and ask around. Ask what will help me fill my time. A lot of people volunteer for charities. The SLC fills a great gap in many people's lives. We get to know each other. It is a great cross-section of the community. How else would we get to know each other without something like this?”

Mrs Lusher has found plenty to fill her time. After her retirement she pursued her passion for renovating old properties. She lives in a property called ‘The Old House' in Fairylands in Pembroke. Parts of her house dates back to 1653.

“I have always had projects,” she said. “I got into renovating properties which I really love. I have added on to my own house. From there I would look at other properties we had. I bought this property [The Old House] some time ago. It had been for sale for seven years. It was an absolute wreck. It took a lot of courage to buy it.

“There were Indian Laurel trees outside. Their roots were even coming up in the kitchen. The tiles in the house were falling off and little tendrils were coming through the walls.”

Today the house is gorgeous in its renovated state and has a beautiful lawn that was covered in sweet smelling white fresias when we met with Mrs Lusher. She recalled with great pleasure buying a neighbouring piece of property with a swimming pool, and then bashing the bottom in to make a croquet lawn.

She has used the lawn for fundraisers for charities such as Agape House. During one event she had 350 people at her house for a special fundraising dinner. She has also helped the SLC to raise funds.

“I started a travel club and made an arrangement with a local travel agent who would give us a donation for every person who I introduced,” she said. “At the end of May I am organising a coach tour through the New England states starting in Boston. If anyone would like to join us all they have to do pay $20 to become a member of the SLC, if they are 55 and over, and they can join us. Already I have the coach over half full. It will be a super trip. There are lots of people in my age group. It is a really nice way for single people to travel because they feel comfortable being in a group and with people whom they know. At the same time we are raising money.”

A previous trip raised $7,000 for SLC.

Mrs Lightbourne, on the other hand, said although she likes to help those in need, she's not interested in committing to any particular volunteer activity.

“This is the time of my life and I should do what I want to do in my own time,” she said. “I would think if the Lord spared you to live 80 years, you must take time for yourself. Years ago I was always doing for someone else. Mind you, I have enjoyed everything I have done. I have no regrets.”

Joy Lusher
Adult learning: Edith Lightbourne at the Seniors Learning Centre with her instructor Steve Lawrence

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Published March 22, 2011 at 9:00 am (Updated March 21, 2011 at 3:55 pm)

For retirees, learning centre ‘fills a gap’ in their lives

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