How to retire during quarantine

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By Saul Schwartz

On Feb. 29, I retired from the federal government. On March 11, the World Health Organization declared a worldwide pandemic.

After a lifelong career, my retirement was to be confined to home with my wife, Fern, who had retired a year earlier.

But we’ve made the most of this time. And if you’re retired, you can, too. Here’s what we’ve been doing.

Exercise and Fitness

Now that we have more time, we work out two to three times per day. Fern and I walk daily, with masks on and socially distant, throughout our community and on local paths. To get outside more often, we bike several times per week. To cross train, we do a weight routine at home and attend free live or recorded virtual classes, such as yoga, from platforms like YouTube.

Food and Nutrition

Since we are eating three meals per day at home, Fern and I plan out healthy menus. We have experimented with preparing new foods, cooking carrots and beets. To limit our exposure to others, we food shop once weekly during the senior hour. We look forward to a change and help support local businesses through occasional take out from food trucks or fast casual restaurants. To help avoid food waste, we order one box of “ugly” imperfect food weekly from a community-supported agricultural program.


Humans are social animals and we miss in-person contacts. Fern and I use Zoom to maintain regular contacts with family, friends, and former work colleagues. Our favorite activity is the virtual dinner where we show each other our prepared multi-course meals, talking and eating during the meal hour. The virtual platforms have also allowed us to celebrate our grandson’s first birthday and to attend shivahs to support grieving relatives.


We feel fortunate to live in the age of streaming options. Fern and I choose to not have cable TV, but we do subscribe to Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and HBO. We normally watch two episodes daily. Israeli and Jewish-related content is contained within each of these media services. Fern and I highly recommend “Unorthodox,” “The Plot Against America,” and “Shtisel.”


Jigsaw puzzles are a great activity to prevent boredom and boost morale. These puzzles help seniors exercise their fingers and minds. The three challenging art puzzles that Fern has done so far have provided her with a great sense of accomplishment. Every other day, Fern and I work together on a crossword puzzle. They help enhance our vocabulary, keep our memory sharp, and improve our concentration.

Reading Time

We start each day by reading the newspaper during coffee and breakfast. This keeps us current with the latest pandemic news. Even with libraries closed, Fern and I read about 100 pages per day. We use book swap services (such as Paperback Book Swap and Book Mooch) to exchange books without charge. I finished an excellent 14-book historical fiction series by Philip Kerr that contained significant Jewish-related content, primarily taking place during World War II.

Religion and Spirituality

We have remained engaged with our temple through frequent online programs, including Shabbat services, brotherhood and sisterhood programs, and meetings. Fern and I particularly enjoyed a pierogi-making lesson and a concert by Sheldon Low. Our friends have reported that their synagogues are getting high attendance due to the convenience of the virtual platform and their congregants desire for spirituality in this unsettled time.

Our retired life in quarantine is not as planned, but our days are busy and full.

Saul Schwartz lives in Alexandria.

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