Retiree group helps seniors stay social

West Bloomfield Beacon | Published September 26, 2017

WEST BLOOMFIELD — Seniors in West Bloomfield can attend lectures, make new friends and learn new things with the Jewish Community Center’s Institute for Retired Professionals, or IRP. 

“You don’t need to be retired. You don’t need to be a professional,” said Sharon Levine, director of the program. “Some people are still working too.”

IRP is in its 33rd year at the JCC. It began when a small group of friends at the JCC decided they didn’t want to be playing shuffleboard in their 60s, said Levine. So they created a group for JCC members 55 and older to stay active intellectually and socially.

The IRP is discussion group-based and self-led. There are over 20 different discussion groups, all with differing topics — from writing and poetry to medicine and finance. There are also groups in which members can practice music or talk about films. 

“(Members) are looking for a way to function better than sitting and watching TV,” said Sidney Young, president of the IRP. “They’re interested in education in new areas. 

“I’ve been interested in things since college that I haven’t gotten into. Then all of a sudden, you retire, and there’s a whole world out there that you’ve never participated in.” 

Young said that the group aims to help older people learn new things and improve the quality of life for its members.

“We give (older people) the ability to expand, to go in different directions if they want,” said Young. “This is a function for people who are looking for a better quality of life.” 

In addition to the discussion groups, the IRP hosts events for all members. The group has hosted speakers including Kym Worthy, Wayne County prosecutor; and Jamon Jordan, president of Detroit’s Association for the Study of African American Life and History.

“It’s an amazing organization, and there’s only one of them,” said Levine. “There are lectures; they could have a series. ... You don’t have to sign up for them. You can go to as many as you want as often as you want.” 

Members of the JCC can join and attend IRP discussion groups for free, and there’s no limit on how many groups members can join. Nonmembers are invited to attend three groups for free and can come to programs hosted by the IRP for a cost. 

The IRP meets at both the JCC’s Kahn Building in West Bloomfield and at Congregation Beth Shalom in Oak Park. A full schedule of discussion groups and meeting times can be found at