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Family & Relationships

The Power of “Getting Old Together” – Widening Your Circle One Connection at a Time

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For all too many, our circles – of friendships, activities and opportunities to learn – diminish as we get older.

Earlier this summer, the Get Old team set out to do something about it, creating a “Get Old Together Day” at a Pfizer campus in Pennsylvania. Employees invited parents or older guests into the workplace – sparking a chain reaction of connections to help everyone actually widen their circles. 

We spoke with three families; each made different kinds of connections:     

Intergenerational.  

Dave and Barbara Cincera weren’t sure what to expect when they visited son Brian’s workplace. Adding to the anticipation was a grandson, Reilly Freret, 20, working there for the summer as an intern. The day was “fantastic,” said Dave, 74, who retired eight years ago after more than 40 years as a sales and marketing executive and international consultant in the chemicals industry. 

“We went there to see what Brian was doing – turns out he’s a great communicator at work, but not as much with his family,” he said. “Meeting his colleagues gave us a sense of pride in him and his work – and getting to talk with other parents made us feel part of a broader community.”

A 13-year veteran of Pfizer, Brian, 50, is the company’s chief information security officer. During a tour of the cyber-security center, his parents marveled at the technology and were equally impressed when Reilly, a computer science major at the University of Washington of St. Louis, explained what he had learned about the arcane subject of “advanced threat detection.”  

“It was so much fun to have our grandson there and so very special to see what he was doing,” said Barbara, 73.  

The Cincera’s epitomize active retirement. Dave shared with others his interests in travel, biking, photography, genealogy, autocross (a driving competition) and his “second-childhood Porsche.” Barbara also retired in 2010 after a long career as a social worker and consultant in the drug prevention and mental health fields. Today, when not travelling with her husband, she loves to garden. 

“It was an experience the whole family will never forget,” said Brian.        

Cultural. 

Roxana Begun, 69, visiting the area from Bangladesh, came at the invitation of her son-in-law, Quazi Ataher, 46, a senior director for safety and regulatory epidemiology.  Quazi, an 11-year Pfizer veteran, was surprised when Roxana insisted on staying for the entire program.

“I thought she’d be ready to leave by noon, but she wanted to try out all the sessions,” he said. Indeed, she spent time at health screenings and social media “101” workshops (run by Pfizer college-age interns) but was most intrigued by fitness demonstrations, including chair yoga, meditation and the stability and mobility exercises. 

For her, it was a breakthrough, Quazi said. Before retiring, she’d worked for many years in Bangladesh as a high school teacher. 

“She loved the idea that you have to keep moving,” he said. “In our culture, as you grow older, you’re expected to do less – to let others do the work for you. This was new advice she really appreciated.”

Healthy Aging. 

Dawson Gillaspy, 88, also stayed for the whole day, despite having to rely on a new walker necessitated by recent hip surgery. 

“I enjoyed it very much,” he said. “My iPhone said I walked 1.7 miles, and I never left the building!”

Like Roxana, Dawson lingered at the fitness stations, especially enjoying chair yoga and new technology “gadgets” to encourage and monitor fitness.   

Dawson is not one to sit still. Most of his career was spent as a corporate human resources executive, moving around from one large company to another on the East Coast and Midwest.   After retiring in 2000, he and his wife, Mary, created a successful business reproducing fine reproduction metal toys. Now, he lives in a senior living facility not far from Collegeville, where he plans to write a memoir, build model airplanes and spend time with his four nearby children and their families.  

Dawson’s host was his daughter, Beth Allen, 63. She’s been an administrative assistant at Pfizer for 12 years. Beth said her father had recently moved his wife into a nursing home. It had been a stressful period; Mrs. Gillaspy has since passed away.  

“It was so nice for him to have a day that was about him,” she said. “He loves meeting people and sharing stories.”

Making smaller circles bigger.

It was Reilly – soon to begin his senior year in college – who best summed up the impact of the day. He was amazed, he said, by how easily and candidly the guests and employees mingled, exchanged stories and shared advice about how to get the most out of life. 

“As I’ve seen people get older, their circles tend to get smaller,” he said. “At ‘Get Old Together Day,’ it was really cool to see those circles get bigger.”

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