Actively Engaged and Making a Difference

Awake bright and early, Ferne Niesley, takes a two-mile walk just about every morning she can. After what we can only assume is a breakfast of champions, Ferne heads over to the Village Center to either volunteer or work several hours for Messiah Lifeways At Home. And she does this with a smile on her face and a spring in her step. By the way, did I mention she will be 90 years old in May and has also lived at Messiah Village for the last 18 years?! You might call this amazing; Ferne just calls it an average day.

Ferne has worked part-time for Messiah Lifeways At Home for the last 10 years primarily as a one-on-one companion. She provides residents and clients company and social engagement to brighten their days and keeps on eye on them if they are struggling with health and mobility issues. Additionally, as a volunteer, she works in the gift shop as well as delivers flowers to residents in the Village Center. She also fills and delivers water pitchers to residents in nursing, sings in the church choir and helps out at fall festival, clothing sales, and various church committees.

In a recent interview by Coaching Intern, Lindsay Mumma, when asked what keeps her going, Ferne replied, “I have this drive and the drive comes from the Lord.” She also stated, “I don’t think about anything, I just do it.” “If you think about it too much, it’ll never get done.” She also believes she was born to work. That strong work ethic continues to live on at nearly 90 years young. She also said that when she watches television, she feels like she’s wasting time. She’s simply too busy for that, staying actively engaged and making a difference in the lives of others.


(continued from Messiah Lifeways Magazine Summer 2013 Issue- page 4)

Much ahead of the curve, Ferne represents a burgeoning and gainful movement often referred to as either an encore career or second act. This movement is associated a bit more with baby boomers, but certainly includes trailblazers in their 70s, 80s and 90s. In the book, Prime Time, author Marc Freedman states, that rather than a “retirement of leisure” that might separate [older adults] from the world, [seniors, retirees, baby boomers] want to be actively engaged and making a difference. Freedman refers to it as “re-engagement of activity” to replace the “retirement of leisure.” This wave is re-imagining retirement and is focused on writing a new chapter in their lives. Volunteering, mentoring, and working part-time for enjoyment and engagement are extremely satisfying and beneficial. And in doing so at 90, Ferne continues to nourish her mind, body, and soul. Active engagement and making a difference in the lives of others sure seems to be working for her.

Another prime example is my father-in-law, who at 80 years old still works full-time as a government relations consultant. Zipping all around the State Capitol and downtown Harrisburg, everyone knows Ron Lench. He also exercises several times a week and does a stretching routine every single morning. Ron is also dedicated to Beth El Temple, organizing and attending a daily prayer group that meets 6 days a week. He also is extremely devoted to his 5 grandchildren, constantly attending their basketball, baseball, and soccer games, plays and recitals as well as babysitting. He also does quite of bit of traveling for work and pleasure. Again I think it’s amazing, yet like Ferne, he modestly brushes it off as part of his normal routine.

I have learned a very a valuable lesson from people like Ferne and my father-in-law. For many years I have relished the idea of retiring, not because I didn’t like working, but rather not having to deal with the daily grind: getting up early, commuting, deadlines, meetings, the list goes on. I couldn’t wait till retirement so I could hop into my hammock at the beach and do absolutely nothing. I know better now. While relaxing and “doing nothing” in small doses might be ok, I have made a promise to myself. I will remain actively engaged and make a difference in the lives of others upon my retirement with opportunities like working part-time, volunteering, mentoring, and exercising my mind and body. I hope you do the same.

Matthew J. Gallardo

Matthew J. Gallardo

Matt is the Director of Community Engagement and Coaching at Messiah Lifeways. He brings nearly 20 years of experience in counseling, advocating, and guiding older adults and caregivers through many of life’s tough decisions. His diverse background of working in hospital and rehabilitation settings, community services, and senior housing gives him the breadth and depth of knowledge to provide unique solutions, opportunities, and help individuals proactively plan for the future. He serves as the Lifeways Coach and as a writer, blogger, podcaster, and speaker for Messiah Lifeways, located in Mechanicsburg, PA.

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