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Making the most of life after retirement

Local aquatics instructor gets real about the benefits of maintaining a part-time job

Created date

May 8th, 2018
Sally Novak teaches Aquacize at the Wyckoff Family YMCA and at Cedar Crest, the Erickson Living community where she lives.

Sally Novak teaches Aquacize at the Wyckoff Family YMCA and at Cedar Crest, the Erickson Living community where she lives.

After she retired as a special education teacher, Sally Novak combined her two passions—teaching and exercise—into one ultimate post-retirement job. For the past 12 years, she’s taught Aquacize, an aquatics exercise class at the Wyckoff Family YMCA in Wyckoff, N.J.

Sally is part of a national demographic employment trend. Employment rates for older adults are the highest they’ve been in 55 years. Almost 19% of people 65 or older were working at least part-time in the second quarter of 2017, according to the U.S. Jobs Report (June 2017). What’s more, a rapidly growing number of Americans are continuing to work beyond their 65th birthday, according to PEW Research Center.

“I think people should work as long as they can. It keeps their brains active, and it keeps their social life active,” Sally says.

In her case, teaching Aquacize keeps her body active as well.  “It keeps me healthy. I love meeting people. And I love helping people who have problems with their back or knees because exercise in the water is low impact,” she says.

Good for the body, mind, and soul

Shortly after moving almost two years ago to Cedar Crest, an Erickson Living community in Pequannock Township, Sally volunteered to teach a weekly class in its indoor aquatics center.

In both of her classes, she uses props like hand buoys, noodles, paddles, and small balls. Participants spend about 40 minutes in shallow water and 20 minutes in the deep. They warm up, stretch, and then begin a series of exercises to move every muscle group in the body.

“I love [teaching] because it keeps me on a routine and because I like the physical activity,” she says, adding that she’s never done it for the money; rather, she does it to stay fit and to help others get the exercise they need.

While she makes friends wherever she goes, at Cedar Crest, Sally teaches neighbors. She uses the opportunity to get to know them better.

“I’m certainly learning more about people as they come to class,” Sally says. She writes the names of people she meets in a notebook and hosts a cocktail hour a few times a month.

“I have a little party in my apartment and invite the new people I’ve met so I can get to know them better,” she says. “Since I’ve moved here, I’ve held about two to three parties a month, and I’ve never once repeated anyone.”

“Sally is a perfect example of how our residents are role models to their peers in the way they choose to pursue their passion and live active lifestyles,” says Executive Director Todd De­­Laney. “She truly loves what she’s doing, and that is evident in her enthusiasm not only when she teaches but also in all the other activities she’s involved in on campus.”

Active lifestyle

Sally says living at Cedar Crest has allowed her to make the most of her retirement years. In fact, she says she wishes she had moved there sooner.

“I retired at a perfectly logical age, but I didn’t move here at a logical age,” she says. “I think moving sooner would have been easier for my kids and given me a chance to do more for and with this community.”

Still, she has managed to take advantage of several of Cedar Crest’s 180 clubs and groups. She sings in the choir, paints with an art group, belongs to the memoir-writing club, and plays with the guitar group.

In addition to her on-campus activities and teaching Aquacize twice a week, Sally also belongs to a choral group and painting group off campus.

“The interesting thing about living at Cedar Crest is that I keep wishing there were 48 hours in a day because there are just not enough hours to do all I want to do,” Sally says.

Her maintenance-free lifestyle at Cedar Crest makes her busy schedule possible. She no longer has to worry about home maintenance, cooking, or cleaning up. If she has a late club meeting, she can sit down to dinner with friends or grab something to go from one of Cedar Crest’s restaurants and take it to her apartment.

“I have everything here. It’s a very safe place to be, and regardless of the weather, you can still participate in all these activities,” Sally says.

What’s more, she says, “People can choose and decide how much time they want to spend on and off campus. It’s very flexible.”