A good retirement is an active retirement, say seniors who volunteer.
Howard Gay, 61, was bored after he retired – following more than 30 years with the City of Surrey – and moved to Langley.
“I was sitting on the couch with nothing to do,” Gay recalled.
He made the move to Langley two years ago, on a Friday the 13th, just in time for the arrival of COVID-19 and lockdowns that limited social opportunities.
“They closed B.C.” is how he summarized it.
So when the seniors centre reopened after shutting down during the early days of the pandemic, he was first in line.
Learning they needed volunteers, Gay, who has a Class 1 driver’s licence, took the centre’s volunteering course, underwent a criminal record check, and registered his car.
As a volunteer driver, he takes other seniors to medical appointments and picks up their grocery orders.
He gets mileage, and ICBC tops up his insurance, but he is responsible for maintenance and repair.
Gay has taken people as far west as North Vancouver, for cancer treatments, and as far east as Abbotsford.
He enjoys the contact with clients and hearing their stories.
“Some people need an ear,” he said.
“It works for me, too, because I’m not a prisoner in my place.”
It also avoids idleness. “I miss working,” he said.
“I miss that structure of going to work, sitting with the guys, having coffee. This helps.”
Volunteering helps, he said.
“It’s all good. It gives me something to look forward to.”
Back when Aldergrove resident Ron Vauthrin was working as a millwright, he and his wife, Sue, would move to a new community every few years to work on projects.
Usually, they were smaller towns without too much in the way of recreation.
“The choice was go to the bar, or study,” Vauthrin recalled.
So he started studying, which eventually led him to his current passion, silversmithing.
Sue, 74, and Ron, 82, both say the key to life after retirement is to know what you will be doing beforehand, rather than try to find an interest after stopping work.
“We both knew what we wanted do, and it wasn’t yard work,” is how Sue put it.
“We did this while we worked,” Sue recalled.
“We took our kids on field trips.”
They also invested in equipment while they were both working and better able to afford it.
As members of the Aldergrove-based Fraser Valley Rock and Gem Club, Sue, who retired as an administrator in real estate, has volunteered as treasurer, while Ron has served as a volunteer instructor – guiding novices.
Their advice to people near retirement is to prepare for it – “find something that they enjoy doing,” Sue commented.
“And pursue that,” Ron added.
“And have something to look forward to,” Sue concluded.
The Sloan Center on Aging and Work at Boston College has found that only individuals who are truly engaged in their post-retirement volunteering enjoy the psychological benefits of such pursuits.
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