Brenda Heming, 74, believes trying new things while staying active is the key to enjoying every stage of life. After staying home to raise her two daughters, Brenda went back to school to get her Bachelor’s degree in English and history. Next, she obtained a certificate to teach English as a second language to adults, which she did for four years after which she kept active by pet-sitting and walking dogs but still yearned for new challenges.
After her children moved out, Brenda found inspiration in her own home. Because she always loved cooking and entertaining guests, Brenda transformed her house into a bed-and-breakfast in 2005 and called it Kent House.
“That was my grandmother’s maiden name and I grew up very close to Kent in England,” she says. “Kent is very rural, and it’s considered ‘the garden of England’, and I was living in a rural area of Kanata in the woods west of Ottawa, so it seemed very fitting.”
Located close to the city’s high-tech sector, Brenda’s B&B welcomed many business travellers for six years, including people from Italy, France and across Canada. By 2011, running the home became too much, and Brenda closed it down and then spent a year in the United Kingdom caring for her mother.
“Don’t be afraid to keep trying new things”
Once back in Canada, Brenda continued pet-sitting. She practiced yoga regularly, which she had done for many years. “I’ve always loved yoga because it brings the whole body and mind together,” she says. “It also keeps me flexible. I have arthritis in my knees, and it’s just so soothing when I do yoga.”
Thanks to a friend’s suggestion, Brenda began training as a chair yoga instructor in 2019. “Chair yoga is wonderful because it makes yoga accessible to people who can’t get down on the mat or get back up again,” explains Brenda. “After I took the chair yoga training, I was totally hooked so I signed up for the full 200-hour teacher training.”
Brenda completed the course in 2020 from the PranaShanti Yoga Centre in Ottawa and just as she began ramping up her yoga classes by teaching private students while volunteering as an instructor at a local seniors’ centre, the pandemic hit and in-person classes shut down. Brenda realized she would have to shift her approach when she spotted an ad for Boomerang, an online workshop platform designed for people 50+.
[Check out Boomerang and other partner offers on RBC Resource Centre for Seniors.]
“They were hiring teachers, so I contacted them. It was serendipitous because we had just gone into lockdown and they had just switched to virtual teaching. It just worked out really well,” says Brenda, who turned a spare bedroom into her yoga studio.
“Don’t be afraid to keep trying new things. Seeing yourself up on the screen when you’re teaching took a bit of getting used to, and I had to upgrade my internet and my laptop, but soon everything settled down. Boomerang is great, because some students may not be able to get out to a yoga studio or they aren’t mobile, so they can do it right from their home. And I get to meet people from all over the country, which is nice.”
Brenda’s group classes on Boomerang have anywhere from 20 to 100 students. She also teaches virtual yoga privately and volunteers at the senior centre once a week. “We do regular yoga poses that I adapt to doing in the chair — everything from Sun Salutation to Warrior to Cat-Cow,” she says.
“Keep interested in everything”
To set up and manage her various businesses Brenda sought help from RBC. “Before starting my B&B business, I did some market research and spoke to my personal banker who helped me open a business account and set me up to take credit cards,” says Brenda. “We also looked at my expenses so I could make a plan. I did have investment savings, of which a large chunk was put into an RRIF, and the chair yoga teaching I’m doing is supplementing the pension I draw from that.”
Through all her endeavours, Brenda has discovered the best ways to enjoy this chapter of her life. “It’s so important to keep active and fit and interested in everything,” she says. “Have a schedule just like you did when you were working, and do things to keep yourself going. It’s really easy for time to slip by and you can get into a rut very easily. Never think you’re too old to start something new.”
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