Spirituality in Retirement

“It’s about keeping your mind active and your spirits high”

It makes me feel good when I can do things to help others,” explains 87-year-old Jean Gill. “It’s hard to explain, but it’s quite wonderful.”

Nearly five years ago, Gill made the choice to move to The Summerhill Retirement Residence in North Vancouver and she quickly became an active member of the community. She began by helping snacks and setting up for special events. Then she joined the Welcoming Committee—taking on the responsibility of visiting new residents to ensure they felt at home. “It’s nice for them to see a friendly face and learn the lay of the land,” she says, “and I enjoy meeting new people.”

According to Ruth MacKenzie, president and CEO of Volunteer Canada, being an active and engaged member of one’s community is extremely valuable for older adults and can even provide tangible health benefits.

MacKenzie cites a study conducted by the University of Michigan in 2002, which found that people who were helpful to others reduced their risk of dying prematurely by nearly 60 percent compared to peers who provided no such support. “There are hormonal implications of doing good,” she says. “Plus, it’s about keeping your mind active and your spirits high.”

“Volunteers reduced their risk of dying prematurely by nearly 60 percent”

“It’s no less important at 75 than it is at 35 to make new friends and be involved in social activities,” MacKenzie continues. Whether you’re fundraising for a charity or volunteering in your community, getting out and interacting with others keeps you feeling young and motivated.

It certainly has worked that way for Gill, whose energy and positive outlook make her seem like she could be in her 50s. “When I’m not busy, I often walk to the hospital to visit residents who have taken ill,” she says. “It’s not my job; I just like to keep in touch with people I’ve met here.”

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