For some, retiring means relaxing. Others rediscover aspects of themselves or embark on new adventures. These St. Louisians never stopped (or never truly retired) and during the pandemic, they are filling their time giving back to the community, staying in touch with friends, and staying in motion.
Former gallery owner Lynn Friedman Hamilton, 75, encourages seniors to indulge in a hobby they couldn’t during their youth, especially in the arts sector. In 2009, Hamilton founded Maturity and Its Muse, a nonprofit that puts on community events, hosts art exhibits, and offers free programs with a focus on how visual arts can stimulate memory. She invited the older artists she knew—with insatiable appetites for life—to lead classes and inspire their contemporaries. “I love the way a person’s involvement in the arts can introduce them to like people and offer a sense of belonging and, especially in older folks, a means to combat loneliness,” she says. Hamilton has stayed busy since technically retiring. A veteran business owner, she recently launched Olympic T-Shirts. “Could it be my final foray into a new business? Will I hang up my entrepreneurial shoes? I don’t know,” she says. “I love the chase and the thrill.”
Ken Wilson, 65, is a former semi-workaholic. Once his career wasn’t his main focus, he looked to pickleball and cycling for exercise. Pickleball was a bit too close of quarters during a pandemic; now he spends most days biking 40–45 miles. He hit more than 190 days of cycling for 2020 and made his personal best in miles. He looks to Saint Louis Recreational Cyclists, which is one of the region’s various cycling groups. Wilson’s been a part of Grumpy Old Bikers on Sunday since 2003, and the original group has ridden together since 1995. He’s learned that it doesn’t have to be cycling, but whatever activity you enjoy as you age, commit to it: “When you’re done, you always say, Well, I’m glad I did it.”
An avid Jeopardy! fan, Lloyd Winston, 66, sends anyone who wants to be on his mailing list weekly trivia filled with fun facts and anything else he finds interesting. Many of those friends, including Wilson, he’s met during his other favorite activity: cycling across town in groups, making pit stops for food or Kaldi’s. On one normal Sunday ride this past spring, Winston suffered a heart rupture. To recover, he looked to the “two things I can do that don’t hurt: Cycling’s one, and the other’s swimming… No one wants to see me in a Speedo,” he jokes. The real reason Winston pedals? “It’s the freedom,” he says, “the freedom that you can get on a bike and go anywhere you want.”
Sharon Echelmeyer, 69, has played bunco with the same group of women for more than 30 years. Sure, she loves the game, but she also loves the food, conversations about grandchildren, and friendships the ritual has inspired. She even started another bunco group with her neighbors in Wentzville. On Wednesdays, she meets with other friends to play the card game Hand and Foot. In addition to keeping an active social calendar (mostly phone calls during the pandemic), Echelmeyer and her husband spend most weekdays volunteering at local nonprofits or with their church. “As you get older, you’re going to need help later,” she says, “so you need to give help when you can.” On their free days, as she calls them, they escape for a road trip in any direction.