“Manhattan is my backyard,” says Staten Islander Richard Berger, who worked in the city for 30 years as a U.S. Postal Service mail carrier and driver. “I still come in almost daily.” Richard and wife Roberta, both retirees, have an active schedule and enjoy taking classes together. “We can talk about what we’re learning,” he explains. Music is an ongoing interest, with classes on music and creative thinking at the Borough of Manhattan Community College. Another favorite destination? The Senior Planet Exploration Center.
A Passion for Music
The couple, married 30 years, met in the music store where Richard was working at the time (“I didn’t let Roberta out of the store until I was sure I could see her again”). They met because of music and it remains important to them. In addition to attending concerts and recitals they learn about in the Senior Planet weekly listings, Richard volunteers for Jazz At Lincoln Center (http://www.jazz.org/) and the Greenwich Music School (http://www.greenwichhouse.org/get_involved/volunteer). “Volunteering in an area where you have an interest and a passion is particularly rewarding,” he says.
Berger first heard about the Center on – where else? – the Staten Island ferry. “A fellow rider gave me the tip,” he says. Like many new retirees, the Bergers had a home computer but didn’t know how to take full advantage of it. Richard and Roberta tried Senior Planet’s computer basics class, then the follow-up “beyond the basics” class. “The classes delivered: each covered exactly what we wanted and needed to learn,” Richard reports, “and the computers are there for almost anytime use” making it easy to get hands-on practice.
Above all, Berger singles out the trainers’ approachable teaching style. “They are always willing to spend time with each student,” he says.“No one feels awkward asking for clarification on something a third or even a fourth time. But if the class were filled with millennials….” Richard’s voice trailed off.
Growing Comfortable with Tech
In subsequent classes, Richard learned to use a digital camera to scan and save photos electronically. He and Roberta particularly relished a class on computer collage art. “It was a wonderful, creative experience,” he recalls. “We learned about different apps that allow us to use our photos to create our own collages.”
While the couple enjoys the classes they take elsewhere in the city, the Senior Planet Exploration Center remains a favorite. “It’s the people we’ve met and the things we’ve learned that make it special,” says Richard. But there’s more to it than that. “One can feel invisible as an older person,” Richard observes. “Coming to the Center has helped me to define myself as someone who isn’t too old to learn, as someone who can learn and do new things.” This spirit is part of “aging with attitude”, he says, along with this advice: “Always make the effort to be upbeat and positive.”