Meet the Man Who Proves Age Is Just a Number

For the fortunate, retirement means finding new work to love. One West Bloomfield senior is doubly blessed: He coaches Detroit business owners and guides young kids.

After 35 years in business, David Broner passed the torch to his kids. Now, they run the family’s fourth-generation company.

But retirement didn’t send this 77-year-old to the rocking chair. Instead, he’s heading to meetings around Detroit to help entrepreneurs turn dreams into reality.

Broner managed sales and inventory for Broner Inc., which distributes safety gear to industries and hats and gloves to retail outlets nationwide.

The father of three and grandfather of seven enjoys hanging out with Lily, his wife of 55 years, and dining with friends. But he’s not ready to chill all day. “I need work,” he says.

Broner decided at 70 that he needed a change. “Two of my kids were working at the company, and for them to grow, I needed to step out of the picture. And I needed to grow, too. I’d never had any other job since high school.”

An acquaintance suggested that Broner attend a monthly meeting to check out the Detroit chapter of SCORE, a volunteer program of the U.S. Small Business Administration. “I didn’t even know what it meant to volunteer,” says Broner. “I’d only worked.”

But mentoring new and existing business owners appealed to him. “The majority of small business people have no one to talk to for advice.”

Broner joined SCORE, using his skills in financial planning, marketing and business management to help coach second-stage and start-up businesses. Broner found meaning in mentoring young Detroit entrepreneurs, helping them develop and grow their businesses.

Broner puts in about 20 hours a week. He either visits the business or the owner comes to a SCORE office. He also is happy to meet at a library or a coffee shop. “We coach one to a dozen employees; the businesses probably do less than a million dollars,” says Broner.

He aims to stay with clients for the life of their business. “They all have a dream, and I try to get them to write the dream on paper,” says Broner. “We run workshops on how to do a business plan, market or get a loan.” Broner works with about 25 businesses at a time. All of them are unique.

He’s become a friend and father figure to some of his clients but readily admits it’s a two-way street. “They don’t realize that I also learn from them,” Broner says.

Volunteering helps Broner feel he’s doing something worthwhile. “You give a little, but you get even more.”

Broner also thinks volunteering improves his health and keeps him mentally sharp. “I think attitude plays a part in the aging process, he says. I don’t know I’m 77 – if I don’t look in the mirror!”

For some, age really is just a number. “I’m friends with someone 92 who is sharper than anyone I know," Broner says. “He reads, has a phenomenal memory, works out three days a week with a trainer and has a zest for life.”

Broner walks at least three days a week, plays tennis twice a week and golfs once a week. Getting in his weekly five days of exercise and eating healthy are essential for him, because he was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes four years ago.

Broner especially enjoys children. He’s worked in Detroit schools for 10 years. Now, he helps with kindergartners at Emerson Elementary School in Detroit.

“If you tell little kids they are great, they light up,” he says. Broner does whatever the teacher asks, whether it’s figuring out puzzles, reading or playing on the floor. “The teacher says any meeting between an adult and a child on a regular basis has some impact,” says Broner. “There were 13 kids in our class last year and only three had two parents involved.”

Broner’s advice for peers seeking volunteer work is don’t get discouraged. “There are a zillion things you can do as a retired person,” he says. “Stay current with technology, learn about computers and take advantage of free resources."

“Volunteering is fun because I keep learning and I stay relevant,” he says. “I don’t want to talk about yesterday. I want to talk about tomorrow.”

Health benefits of keeping your brain active

Keeping your brain active is as important as moving to maintain a healthy heart, says Dr. Gwendolyn R. Graddy-Dansby, a Henry Ford Medical Group geriatrician and medical director of PACE Southeast Michigan. “Brain health helps you maintain your independence and who you are as an individual, and lets you connect with people.”

The good news: It’s never too late to boost your brain power.

“We have neuroplasticity, which means the human brain has the ability to learn new things to a very old age," says Dr. Graddy-Dansby. Your brain benefits from a challenge, like trying a new activity. “Learning new skills that challenge you allows your brain to develop additional neurons or connections, which strengthens memory and cognition,” she says. “The average age of people I take care of is 83, and I am amazed at their ability to learn.”

Try a crossword puzzle, listen to different music, read a different kind of book or visit an art museum. To maintain a healthy brain, get enough sleep, exercise and limit stress.

Learn more about volunteering with SCORE at score.org.

Categories: Get Involved

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