Written by Raven Nyman
For those lucky enough to spend time with their elders, you’ve likely noticed a similar trend that sees the elderly show up to volunteer far more frequently than their younger counterparts.
Volunteering is a significant part of many seniors’ lives in the South Cariboo, but their choice to actively commit their time to help others actually benefits the entire community.
“I enjoy it,” said Chris Nickless, a volunteer with the 100 Mile Lions Club and the local Ducks Unlimited chapter. Nickless is also the media chair for the Cyclone Taylor Cup and sits on various volunteer boards in the community. “For me, it’s a way to keep in touch with the public, to keep in touch with my peer group, and to see something be successful.”
Many locals over the age of 55 are busier than they’ve ever been, which is important for overall health, said Ralph Fossum, chairperson for the Age-Friendly Society of the South Cariboo.
Nickless acknowledges that seniors make up the bulk of the volunteer base in many communities and that’s a concern going forward, he said. Still, he understands why it may be so.
“Younger people now, if they have a family, it’s all they can do to keep their family going. If they both work, by the time their day is done and they’ve got young kids, they’re not going to go out and volunteer. They just don’t have the time or the energy and it’s critical for them to look after their families.”
For Nickless, volunteering becomes routine when parents include it early on in their children’s lives.
“If it’s brought into your family when you’re young, you’ll likely be a volunteer [forever],” he said.
One of the things Nickless is most passionate about is chairing the board of directors for the South Cariboo Health Foundation (SCHF), which has donated over $3 million to the community since 2002.
“This community is fantastic in coming forward with donations. For instance, hospice needed four mattresses and they aren’t on Interior Health’s list for getting equipment so they came to us to ask what we could do. I went to the regional district, the CRD, and with their help… we bought them four new mattresses.”
Those specialized mattresses help to alleviate bedsores and more, explained Nickless, citing just one of the many ways in which the SCHF has given back to the community during his years of involvement.
Dot Verboom is another local volunteer and an executive with the 100 Mile Community Club and the Creekside Seniors Activity Centre.
In her seventies, Verboom also maintains an almost full-time job, working in her daughters’ flower shop, Exquisite Florals and Gifts. She delivers flowers to customers in the South Cariboo on a daily basis.
Verboom has also been running bingo nights for 100 Mile House since 1987.
“I’m still running their bingo every Monday night at the Community Hall,” she said.
At Creekside, she’s most involved with carpet bowling, which is a sport similar to boccie ball and curling. Carpet bowling keeps Verboom and her peers active, as participants play regularly but can also travel to compete together.
In September, carpet bowlers from Creekside brought home gold medals from the BC 55+ Games in Kelowna.
Verboom explained that there are actually a lot of different sports and activities held regularly at Creekside that help to keep the community’s senior population social and thriving.
“There’s tai-chi there, there’s crib, there’s bridge, we have our potlucks and things like that.”
Volunteering in and staying active in her personal life is something Verboom won’t quit anytime soon.
“It keeps you young,” she said. “It’s the biggest part of my life, isn’t it?”
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