Active Retirement

By Vernice Shostal


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Retirement living isn’t about relaxing all day. Today’s seniors are active. Many exercise regularly, have hobbies, enjoy crafts, garden and look for ways to help others. As a result, a number of retirement residences are catering to the interests of the more active retiree.

As a way of managing their own landscape communally and ecologically, the staff and residents at Shannon Oaks have created a food garden as well as landscaping for colour around the building. With a greenhouse, the food, all organic, is used in the kitchen while residents take tomatoes, herbs, or whatever they need from the tubs when they entertain in their own suites.

Clarice Durnerin, a former teacher who still likes to garden, grew up on a farm in California. After their retirement, Clarice and her late husband, who had never been outside of Los Angeles, decided to travel. They journeyed up the west coast until they got to Seattle when her husband decided that “tomorrow we go to Banff,” however, Clarice insisted on going to Victoria where, as a missionary in the 1950s, she had taught on an Indian Reserve. Their Victoria visit stretched into six weeks before they went home, sold everything, and came back to live permanently, and where Clarice continued to garden. They didn’t make it to Banff for another two years, says Clarice.

Originally from Scotland, George Fraser’s father-in-law taught him about gardening. George remembers picking up his fiancée to go to the movies when her father would ask George to help him with the gardening. With a nod from his sweetheart, George stayed, opting to garden instead of going to the movie.

In Prestwick, during the war, George worked as an apprentice in an aircraft factory. When the war ended, George’s apprenticeship became redundant and he worked at various jobs in Scotland until the Frasers decided to move to Canada. Here, George found a job with Imperial Oil in Don Mills, Ontario and seven years later in Victoria. When Imperial Oil burned down, George joined the Victoria School Board. Also a painter and musician, the former accordion player now plays his full-sized consul keyboard in his suite. “I have a whole orchestra,” he says.

Other senior gardeners are found at Lakeside Gardens Retirement in Nanaimo. The Origin at Longwood gardeners tend a raised “chef’s herb garden” providing fresh herbs for the chef’s daily menus. Some green thumbs maintain their own potted urns and bird feeders on their patios and balconies. At Hecate Gardens, the Gardening Club maintains flower beds and a “do as you like project” has a large strawberry patch for seniors.

In addition to raised garden beds, the Comox Valley Seniors Village offers workshops to create Mediterranean plant box designs for balconies and patios to reduce the use of water. Residents at the Wellesley enjoy rooftop gardening and pots; gardening and floral design takes place at Somerset house in Victoria; Rose Manor offers a greenhouse, run and used by seniors for their own use, and a gardening group thrives at Alexander Mackie. Many residents in seniors’ homes like to have their own pots on their balconies and patios.

For those who prefer a different kind of activity, former Saskatchewan resident, who spent most of his life in the bulk oil business, Pete Wollner says woodworking has been his lifelong hobby. Pete and his wife, Grace, moved from Lampman to Regina before they retired to Victoria. At the Wellesley, Pete fixes lamps, cabinets, dresser drawers and whatever anyone wants him to repair. In the woodworking shop, he makes “pretty much anything anyone wants.” Also a professional barber who brought his equipment with him, Pete says, “I can cut somebody’s hair in an emergency.” On Monday mornings, Pete, a competent duplicate bridge player, also teaches beginner’s bridge. “They twisted my arm long enough,” says Pete. “I’ve got so much on my plate, but it’s hard to say, ‘No.’”

Harold Booth, also from Saskatchewan, where he worked with the Power Corporation, has lived in Victoria for 24 years. Having spent a short time in the army in his youth, Harold had the good fortune of being stationed in Victoria, where he was involved in the parade. That was when he decided that someday he would live in Victoria.

A year before he retired, Harold saw an ad in a paper announcing classes in stained glass; he took a couple lessons and now has a complete photo album of flowers, windows, tiffany lamps, decorative window hangings and pieces he has constructed. Every member of his family, no matter how young, has a sample of his work.

Activities in retirement houses vary from crafts, like ceramics at the Legion Manor, to walk-abouts and fitness classes. Seniors at Somerset, the Peninsula at Norgarden and Lakeside Gardens swim to keep fit. Comox Seniors Village offers Pilates. Douglas House and The Beechwood in Sidney have carpet bowlers. Parkwood Place, among others, has a billiard room for seniors. Some homes offer snooker tournaments. Volleyball at Parkwood Court provides physical therapy for many. Residents at Ross Place, Carlton and others practise Tai Chi for mind and body fitness.

Two years ago Raymond (Jim) Green moved into Carlton House at Oak Bay and, three months ago, joined the Tai Chi group. Born in England, Jim served in the Royal Navy during the war. After the war, he left the navy to fulfill his dream of becoming a fruit farmer in Canada, but his first job, working with a soup company in Vancouver, didn’t fulfill his expectations. At the same time, Jim’s future wife would not come to Canada until he was well established, “so strange enough, about that time, the Canadian navy was expanding.” Jim joined the navy and his future wife joined him in Canada.

After he left the navy, Jim went to work for the federal government and finally retired in Nanaimo where he lived on a golf course and enjoyed golfing every day. Having taken Tai Chi in the past, Jim decided to try it again at Carlton with instructor Gordon Muir, who says the ancient health art, developed in China over 2,000 years ago, works on the theory that the whole body is made up of chi meridians. “In the chi meridians, there is an essence flowing that can either increase or decrease depending on whether you lead a good life or a bad life. Of course, if you have more chi, then you have more energy and more liveliness and you tend to live longer.”

Keeping active, going green, reusing and recycling, seniors in some houses have organized an ongoing collection of used items for Our Place. Hecate Gardens seniors donate the money they get from recycling to special events for those seniors who can’t afford it, and Berwick House knitters collect leftover yarn and unfinished garments, which they knit into squares for afghans and then donate to charity.

In keeping with going green, many residences have replaced their regular lighting with low energy light bulbs and have low flush toilets.

From gardening, eating more organic, turning off lights when they leave a room, recycling, reusing to walking, swimming and exercising, seniors today are going green, staying active and living longer.

For more information about seniors’ residences, please refer to the ads in Senior Living Magazine.

 

FEBRUARY 2010 SENIOR LIVING MAGAZINE VANCOUVER ISLAND

 

 

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