Post Retirement Time Management
June 12, 2014
by Fran Minakowski
A 30-year resident of Columbia, Maryland, Nancy Berla has a weekly schedule that even a Gen X youngster might find daunting. There’s tennis three times each week and a Spanish-language conversation group (“I’ll never be fluent!) and even a Spanish book club that requires her attention. She attends exercise classes and seizes opportunities for continued learning. She pitches in to help some small nonprofit organizations by performing grant-writing, and Mrs. Berla is also the editor of a bi-monthly resident newsletter at Vantage House where she and husband, Mike, have lived for nearly three years.
But the one activity that seems to provide the most joy – and the most demands on her time and talent – is the Harvest Moon Ensemble, a group of local amateur musicians who delight in bringing music to others. To hear her speak of the ensemble, one would conclude that Nancy Berla, an 80-something dynamo, is a low-key musician who’s obviously playing in the key of life and hitting all the right notes.
Her voice is an instrument, too. She regularly joins sing-a-longs at a retirement community in Ellicott City where the Harvest Moon Ensemble performs on Saturdays for assisted living residents there – “but anyone can come” – and she plays in recorder groups that are featured at local weddings and churches. She was a volunteer for the Candlelight Concert Society in the past, and today, she attends the performances whenever she can. “I love being a musician,” she concludes.
Every day Nancy gets in her Toyota Prius and heads out to her numerous engagements in Howard County and elsewhere. She speaks with some reluctance of the time in the future when she’ll scale back her routine. But, she’s quick to point out, there’s an upside even to that eventuality.
“There are lots of activities at Vantage House that I’m simply too busy to take advantage of now. When I decide to scale back some of my activities, there will be a lot going on here – and I’m thankful for that.”
And that’s perhaps the essence of Nancy Berla – “I want to craft my own life.” Independence and self-determination figure big in Nancy’s scheme for living. Her mother-in-law was the fifth person to take up residence in Vantage House after its 1990
opening, so she was certainly agreeable to the notion of moving to a vibrant community.
“I knew I wanted to downsize myself – make decisions myself – and I was firm in my determination to move when I had the energy and good health to tackle this change. I didn’t want to be forced to make a move.”
Mr. and Mrs. Berla made the move in 2010. “We had no medical issues prompting us to come to Vantage House, and we were still quite active in the Columbia area where we’ve lived for three decades.” The one-half-mile relocation from the Berla home to Vantage House was accomplished easily.
The move has given peace of mind to the Berlas as well as to their children. “They know that there are resources here if something were to happen,” Mrs. Berla adds. The “lifecare” aspect of Vantage House has a great deal of appeal to her.
“This is where my life is – Columbia,” she explains, and clearly she has been able to keep intact her ties to the recreational, educational, and social aspects of the community around her – and, of course, to the music that plays such a big role in her post-retirement schedule.