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Step out of your comfort zone in retirement

What’s next, when the career winds down and the schedule opens up?

Retirement, for some, is a welcome break from the daily commitments of a job, a chance to relax. For others, it’s a smack on the head to step out of their comfort zone and try something new.

Here are four older Rochesterians, their primary careers behind them, who are using their days to explore creativity, help others and launch new enterprises. 

Cultural explorer
When Sandra Condry, 75, retired, she moved to Rochester to be closer to her daughter and her family. Her career as a psychologist working with developmentally disabled children and later running her own practice was behind her. A widow, Condry was eager to start fresh.

“I decided early on that when I tried new activities, I would commit to it until I decided that it wasn’t for me, as opposed to deciding each week whether I felt like going,” Condry says.

She played table tennis for a year and then moved on to international folk dancing classes. (Condry says she’s a quarter-step behind everyone else, but she still goes every week.) She also joined Golden Link Folk Singing Society and enjoys the concerts, a yearly festival and group sing-alongs. She caught the music bug and has started guitar lessons and a music theory class.

“There’s so much to learn,” she says.

Another passion is travel. In recent years, Condry has visited the Maritime Provinces, Galapagos and Baja, Calif. (to pet the gray whales). She visits family in Beirut every year. Closer to home, she attends Glimmerglass Summer Opera in Cooperstown and Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra concerts.

“This city has so much going on, and at my age, there is no value in putting things off,” Condry says.

The volunteer
Frank DiNitto’s interest in helping people and working with youth continues well into his nine-year retirement from a 34-year career as a middle school reading and literacy teacher.

DiNitto cooks dinner for children and teens at the Center for Youth, pitches in at the Ronald McDonald House household sale, and tutors children and adults at Notre Dame Learning Center.

“Cooking for the kids gives me a chance to share and use my cooking skills for others to enjoy, and tutoring keeps my mind active to share my teaching skills,” he says.

He volunteers at the Ronald McDonald House sale as a way to show appreciation for the organization, where families from out of town can stay when their children receive medical treatment here.

“My 4-year-old great nephew had an accident, and my family spent many overnights at the Ronald McDonald House before he passed away,” DiNitto says. “This is the least I can do to give back for when they helped our family.” 

At the Center for Youth, DiNitto prepares comfort food for 15 to 20 people every Tuesday: meatloaf, macaroni and cheese, chicken parmesan, Mexican casseroles, and pasta and meatballs. “You do what you can to make people feel good,” he says.

The motorcycle guy
Paul Shelley is spending retirement helping people get comfortable on two wheels.

Shelley was an electrical engineer for 24 years and served six years of active duty in the Air Force before he retired at 52. Now he spends his days as a certified Motorcycle Safety Foundation instructor with Learn2Ride Inc. The company teaches the state motorcycle safety program at Monroe Community College. 

Shelley teaches the basic rider course, showing new and seasoned riders safe motorcycle operation and risk management on the road.

“I have been a lifelong learner, and that is especially true with motorcycles,” Shelley says. “It can be a dangerous mode of transportation if not taken seriously. One thing that really pumps me up about teaching is that I know the students are not only safer motorcyclists but much better car drivers, as they are now hyper-aware of other motorcyclists on the road.”

After four seasons and 64 classes, Shelley has forged great friendships with many of his co-workers and some students. Many also are retirees.

“I sat in a restaurant one night with my family and the waitress said she remembered me as her MSF instructor,” Shelley recalls. “Before she took our order, I had to ask her if she passed or failed the course.”

Shelley could do without the cold and snow that come with living in the Northeast, but he loves to teach.

“I do it because I believe in it,” he says. “It’s not like I’m going to get rich teaching this, but it is very rewarding and can get somewhat terrifying at times.”

The flipper
Bob Weilert was 55 when he retired from General Motors Corp. after 37 years as a tool-and-die maker. He soon realized he needed to fill his free time with focus and purpose.

Weilert turned to rehabbing houses and has been at it for 10 years. He paid $10,000 for his first house, a major fixer-upper in the 19th Ward, and hasn’t looked back. He has flipped more than 20 houses and oversees five rental properties.

Among Weilert’s most memorable flips was a home in Corn Hill. Neighbors didn’t know it existed because it was surrounded by overgrown shrubs and trees. It took him six months to make the home habitable again.

“Once all of the trees were removed, the house really looked nice, and many people stopped by to say they didn’t realize a house was even on the property,” he recalls.

Weilert and his wife, Jennifer, took to one flip so much they moved into it. It was a bank foreclosure in Pittsford with a view to love. They moved from Greece, where they had raised three children since the 1970s.

The Weilerts also like to travel, visiting Westchester County and North Carolina to spend time with their children and grandchildren.

“We are always on the go,” Bob Weilert says.

Haverly Erskine is a Rochester-area freelance writer.

10/14/2016 (c) 2016 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.


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