What do Edmontonians look forward to about growing older? There can be a tendency to talk about “getting old” as a final destination without the chance for new growth or development. Age Friendly Edmonton is working to set the record straight by demonstrating that growing older can be a wonderful experience when people are empowered to age well.
A 2019 Leger survey, The Happiness Index, showed that happiness scores spiked to 61 per cent after age 55. Our senior years can be a great time to explore new opportunities and get to know one’s true self. Here are the stories of three older Edmontonians who are living life to the fullest.
Eileen Mardres, 73, welcomes her golden years as an opportunity to bring family together. In her younger years, Eileen spent much of her time responding to her family’s needs. Caught between changing diapers, doing laundry and keeping up with the hectic pace of family life, Eileen didn’t have the time to explore her passion for writing and archiving stories of the past. Now with more time on her hands, Eileen has taken on the mantle of family historian to share stories with her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, including her family’s history of stamp collecting. Recently, Eileen created a photobook by collecting family photos from her phone, Facebook, and other family members to create a snapshot in time of what things are like during COVID-19—the streets outside and what people are doing. “I had this idea,” said Eileen. “This might be good for the children. This could bring us together and be something to share.”
As an avid learner and retired early childhood educator, Carol Vaage, 72, has embraced retirement through learning and volunteering with the Edmonton Lifelong Learners Association (ELLA) and SouthWest Edmonton Seniors Association (SWESA). Despite never having picked up a paintbrush, Carol is now an adept watercolor painter and attends daily online painting meetups with her friends using Zoom videoconferencing. “It's important for people to think about what they would really love to do before retirement comes along,” said Carol. “If your whole life is tied up in your career and then your career stops, you find your time is empty.”
Finally, Jack Little, 80, is giving back in retirement through community engagement and volunteerism. Formerly the station manager of CFRN (now CTV), Jack retired at age 63 but quickly moved into the role of executive director of Edmonton’s Heritage Festival after feeling too young to retire. Jack’s 13-year adventure with the Festival offered him the opportunity to apply his business experience and to engage with the citizens of Edmonton’s cultural communities. Now, Jack remains engaged in the community, serving on the boards of the Edmonton Food Bank and GEF Seniors Housing. Jack’s advice for other seniors is, “To yourself be true. Pick something that you're comfortable with. I think that we [seniors] are very valuable. There's a lot of skill out there that nonprofits would benefit from.”
To share your story, visit GrowOlderWithMe.net or connect with us on social media using the #GrowOlderWithMe hashtag. Age Friendly Edmonton will continue accepting stories throughout the summer until July 12. The first 100 participants will receive a $5 Tim Horton’s gift card (see website for details). For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.