Shirley Joel produces something akin to Discovery Channel's Myth Busters on the Manhattan Neighborhood Network (MNN), a public television channel. But where Myth Busters tests obscure urban legends, the Active Aging series debunks commonly held beliefs, such as 'all older people are sick' and 'life stops after retirement.' Along with a fabulous crew of retirees who range from a former investigative reporter to a retired computer teacher, Mrs. Joel finds and produces the stories that prove retirement can be the busiest part of life. As Mrs. Joel said, "It’s fine if you want to fish or play bridge, but we like to encourage people to follow their passions." But Mrs. Joel is as good an example of that sentiment as any she will find in her Manhattan neighborhood.
Volunteering as the executive producer of Active Aging, Mrs. Joel, now 82, has ensured her days will always be busy. A widow living far away from her children and grandchildren, Mrs. Joel's days could be very empty. Instead, she decided to follow her own advice and pursue her passion, which happens to be directing and editing. Mrs. Joel now leads the Active Aging group, sharing the knowledge of video production that she gathered throughout her career in advertising. "People who don’t know producing have the ability to do it," said Mrs. Joel, as she described a co-volunteer in her 70s who has become a wiz at editing clips on the computer. But for all the know-how Mrs. Joel has, she knows there are always new ways to develop her passion.
This mindset explains why Mrs. Joel is more comfortable with technology than many college students. Knowing the production industry was evolving like never before, she mastered Final Cut Pro, a cutting edge software program that has expanded her abilities. Additionally, Mrs. Joel took steps to become more familiar with the digital camera to become a better producer. The idea of working to improve or maintain one's abilities is central to the way Mrs. Joel leads her life.
An avid exerciser, Mrs. Joel stresses the need and ease for staying active in order to remain healthy. Line dancing at St. Peter's Church, participating in free martial arts classes, and going to small theatres in need of audiences are some of her favorite ways to fill in the hours she does not spend at MNN. Further, she has made a ritual out of reading the Times and The New Yorker. For Mrs. Joel, retirement does not signify the end, but rather the beginning of wonderful opportunities.
And this belief is echoed in her philosophy. When asked what advice she would give to those leaving the workforce, Mrs. Joel responded, "Don't be afraid. Carpe diem!" She admits that while finding a passion can be tough, the happiness hobbies bring make the search well worth it. And, she argues, with so many free activities being available, what's the harm in trying? You may even end up being featured on programs like Active Aging!
View some examples of Shirley Joel’s Active Aging series at ActiveAgingStories.org.
Thursday, March 10, 2011 at 08:08PM
Written By: Adam Gallagher