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Reframing aging: Focus on Pat Sakai 

by Cynthia Overbeck Bix, Photos by Nancy Rubin

Pat Sakai

Age 71

I don’t think about “aging gracefully.” I think about trying to live gracefully!

Current interests: Painting; vocal study and performance; travel; hiking, cycling and weight training; non-profit fundraising  

Career: Secondary educator; Director of Continuing Education, St. Mary’s College; Training Director and Vice President, Learning and Development, various Bay Area corporations

The first thing people notice when they meet Pat is her bright, warm energy and her boundless enthusiasm. She has endless interest in people and their stories, and loves to forge connections and collaboration between people. In her own life, she keeps her eyes trained on new horizons, building on past strengths and interests to explore new pathways.

On retirement

Since leaving the workplace, I’m using my skills in important community organizations. As I cultivate donors for Berkeley Repertory Theatre and do fundraising for Ashby Village, I get great pleasure from engaging people.  

While I was working I didn’t have the time, energy, or psychological space for the things I love doing now. These days, I’m picking up things that I did almost 50 years ago.

For example, I performed choral music at UC Berkeley, but later got too busy with work and family to sing. About ten years ago, when my kids were grown, I said, “What am I waiting for?” I began performing with the San Francisco Choral Society. Now I’m studying voice, so I can improve and enjoy performing even more. That’s a big revelation to me—Wow, I can still learn something!

On making art

Another thing that’s really important to me now is painting. That’s something I hadn’t done since I was seventeen. Now I’m taking a painting studio class, and it has just been the most wonderful experience. I’m intrigued by the creative process, and I surprise myself when I enjoy the end result. It’s so liberating to explore a level of artistic expression I haven’t experienced since my teens. 

I’ve found that I just have to let myself take it where it’s going to go. It’s for my own enjoyment, to see what comes out. It’s liberating! 

On moving forward

I used to tell myself, I’ll never be able to do this or that—and then I was always proven wrong. So I decided—don’t say that anymore!

On growing older

I want to keep fit and healthy as long as I can. I have a daily stretching regimen, and I bicycle, hike, and train with weights. I live in my gym clothes most of the time! It’s all so I can continue doing the things I love to do.

On Ashby Village

The Ashby Village board is one of the most enjoyable ones on which I’ve served. The members, who are from different backgrounds, all have a passion for what they do, and people are very respectful of each other. It’s highly collaborative, and there’s a lot of permission to explore new things.

Ashby Village is a unique agency—it fills in the cracks where social service agencies don’t serve. It’s all about engaging in a community, and staying where you choose to stay. We support people as they’re getting older, and we’re not denying that we’re aging. But we’re not focused on getting old. 

People join for the services, but they stay because it’s such a great community!

Younger Pat

 Pat  today