‘Everything about life is having meaning and purpose,’ Leener says
by Kara Rose
Jerry Leener received a paycheck from the same company his whole working life.
The former accountant spent 35 years working at PricewaterhouseCoopers until he retired in 2003.
Then, after spending two years just trying to “figure it out,” he got involved with Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Services as a volunteer EMT.
Ten years later, the 65-year-old is volunteering with three different stations — including Station 1 and Station 19, both in Silver Spring — for two 12- to 15-hour shifts per week.
“This is the one profession that hits your mind, body and soul,” Leener said.
Leener said his job requires him to make quick decisions in the field and take analytical assessments of the patient he is serving. He also said he has been a speed walker for 21 years. He works out every day — speed walking three to four times each week, lifting weights twice a week and golfing twice a week in an effort to keep himself physically fit for the job.
He said most of the guys he works with in the fire house are in their 30s, noting that friends joke he is the oldest person to sit through the emergency vehicles operating class.
“I don’t know of anybody who became an ambulance driver at 63 years old,” Leener said, laughing.
Gabby Redford, editorial projects manager for AARP The Magazine, said remaining active in retirement is a trend they are seeing.
“They aren’t there because they need a job. They are there because they really want to do what they’re doing,” Redford said, noting that baby boomers are healthier than their parent’s generation. “Older people have a lot of skills that they can contribute.”
But Leener said he believes there is a stigma surrounding retired seniors re-entering the workforce.
“Now with Obamacare and other things, the seniors are taken care of for the most part,” Leener said. “It’s a great opportunity for employers to find qualified retirees to come into the workforce.”
Leener said before he started driving an ambulance, he wanted to find a task that would allow him to give back while still having freedom of his time, never having to wear a coat and tie again and interacting with others. He said he is able to do all of that as an EMT.
“Everything about life is having meaning and purpose,” Leener said. “Sitting at home does not give you meaning and purpose.”