Senior Planet Colorado member and volunteer, Suzi Fogarty, is busy! Before our talk one Monday afternoon she had spent all weekend and morning working on her upcoming cover story for The Lowry Aviator, one of two cover stories she’s responsible for in August 2020.
Here are excerpts of our conversation about what it’s been like for Suzi to start a blossoming career as a magazine writer in her 70’s and how a fortuitous run-in at Senior Planet Colorado kicked it all off.
SP: What do you like writing about?
I like to write stories about interesting people. At a monthly meeting for the Lowry Aviator I recommended that we should feature a different artist each month. Different types of artists, not just painters- actors, musicians, craftsmen, flower arrangers, anyone.
My editor loved the idea and decided we would launch the monthly series by making the artist profiles our cover stories for both the Lowry Aviator and Bonnie Brae Living in August. So that is what I’m working on finishing up now!
SP: How did you end up writing for those publications?
I wouldn’t have this job if it wasn’t for Senior Planet!
I studied writing in college but then I abandoned it; I had to graduate quickly and get to work. I was married to a journalist so we moved around a lot and I was always changing careers. My latest was a litigation support business I owned with clients in 27 states. From all my work I learned you’ve got to be right and you’ve got to be on time because you can’t blow deadlines, which has helped me as a magazine writer.
Last year I was at the gym when one of the other gym rats asked me if I’d heard about Senior Planet and I said “no.” After I finished, I wandered over to the Center and met Judy (Senior Planet Colorado’s Center Manager) and Khristine (Senior Planet Colorado’s State Director). I immediately said “sign me up!” I hung out there a few times between Thanksgiving and Christmas and saw how busy the staff was, so I offered to volunteer. It was supposed to be just Wednesday afternoons after my class but it ended up being so much more.
One bitterly cold day I was working the front desk (which I love because I get to meet new people), when a young man named Adam walked in carrying an armful of crap. He was there early for a meeting with Judy. I saw at the bottom of his pile was a copy of The Lowry Aviator and told him “that magazine broke my heart.”
In 2008 my husband died suddenly; I moved to Denver in 2009. I was not in a good space. By spring 2010, I knew I had to do something to make some money. I saw a position for a staff writer at The Lowry Aviator. I sent in my resume and immediately got an interview. I was so excited, but sadly it didn’t work out.
I told Adam all this. He asked what story I had pitched back in 2010 and I told him my idea about profiling this amazing artist, Billy, I know. He looked at me and said, “you’re hired.” I was shocked! He explained, “I’m the editor and owner of The Lowry Aviator now.” I was hired in January as a freelance writer and a few months later offered a part-time staff position in PR, Marketing and Client Relations.
I told Adam I never want to work full time because I don’t want to give up my volunteer and class time at Senior Planet. And I’m going to be 72! I love doing both things. Plus I get a lot of story ideas from Senior Planet.
SP: That’s an incredible story!
It’s true! I feel like Sherman and his Wayback Machine from The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. Like I stepped in the Wayback Machine and got to be a writer after all. And opportunities keep coming! I got to be a guest blogger for the Colorado Governor’s website and my piece is being translated into seven languages. I’m so busy I’m having to turn down writing gigs.
None of it would be possible without Senior Planet. I told Judy and Khristine, “you’re not trying to make me famous, you’re trying to kill me!” I never want to stop helping Senior Planet. It’s like an avalanche of positive.
SP: What would you recommend to other older adults who want to switch careers?
It wasn’t that I wanted to become a writer, I wanted to find something to fill my day. I was volunteering to meet some people but in the back of my head I thought it might lead to a part time job. I moved all my life and I always had to find something new to do. My philosophy since I was a kid has always been if someone opens a door for you, you may as well walk through. What the worst that could happen? Nothing?
SP: What does aging with attitude mean to you?
Aging with Attitude? It’s totally me. I was born with attitude, then I survived with attitude. Now I’m aging with attitude. I’ve never been a shrinking violet.