For some people, retirement is a welcome ending to a life
of going to work. For others, it’s the end of working in one field and the
beginning of working in another.
Beverly Allison retired from her job as an elementary
school librarian in Tennessee when she was 65. She had been working for 25 years
at that point. She and her husband Clem had decided they would retire at the
same time, so he retired that year too. “We had made that our finishing mark at
that point of our lives,” she said.
Now, Beverly is 70 and since she retired, she has completed
a pharmacy technician degree from a community college. She’s already
board-certified, and she’s currently looking for part-time work in that field.
Some retirement, eh?
It turns out that even before Beverly went back to school
for her pharmacy tech degree, she was quite busy in her retirement. “I knew that
when I retired I wanted to do volunteer work. I wanted to give back.” Her first
project was automating her church library. “That was very productive,” she says.
“And it’s ongoing. Now I’m helping a senior girl scout catalogue children’s
books at the library.”
She then began doing volunteer work at her hospital. “I did
what you might imagine a librarian would do at the hospital—I took the book cart
around,” she says. She also became involved in the women’s center at the
hospital, where she collaborated with another woman to catalogue material for
the media center.
It seems there’s a great need for retired librarians in
this world. Beverly would have been able to stay busy and productive using the
skills she already had.
But, as she says, “There was a bright light shining, saying
‘hey, try something new.’ I decided to go back to school and get my pharmacy
technician degree. The Walters State Community College is about a 35 to 40
minute commute from where I live, and they have a good program there. I said to
myself, ‘As you grow older, you’ll be using some of those pharmaceuticals
yourself.’ I’m the kind of person who likes to know all about what I’m taking,
so I thought it would be a good program for me. Plus I knew it was a growing
field. Plus I liked it. I liked learning about nutrition and wellness, and I
even liked doing the math problems.”
Going back to school as an older person wasn’t a problem
for Beverly at all. She was struck sometimes by the difference in ages between
her and the youngest students, since some of them were only 17, but she enjoyed
the experience. “I was really the Mother Theresa there,” she jokes. “I learned
all about tattoos and body piercing,” she laughs, “but I never felt compelled to
get any of that.”
She did have to take tests on the computer while she was in
school. “I wasn’t used to that,” she says. But it didn’t stop her from getting a
95 on her algebra final.
Beverly’s husband has been supportive of her new venture.
“He’s good with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches,” she says. “He’d pack a
fold-over peanut butter sandwich and half a banana for me on days when I had to
rush from one class to the next.”
How long does Beverly plan to work in her second career?
“As long as I’m fit, I’ll keep working,” she says. “I do have high cholesterol
and high blood pressure, which I inherited, but I’m on medication. And I stay
“And now,” she said, “I have to go. I’m about to go for a
walk in the park with Clem.”
Interview with Beverly Allison