Giving Back Keeps Them Going
Why Local Seniors Volunteer at Nursing Homes
Mikel E. Tetrick and Dennis R. Krewson live in a multi-story apartment building for seniors on Shelby Street, next door to Bethany Village, where they spend most of their free time.
The men are at Bethany Village almost daily, helping as volunteers. They help people onto and off of Bethany Village’s bus, run errands for residents, accompany residents to restaurants or shopping, and help them inside of the nursing community when they need a hand. But most of all, they make residents smile.
“We care about every one of them and they know we care,’’ said Mr. Tetrick, 66, a retired cook, roofer and Quaker Oats factory worker. “The people here are so caring—the residents and the workers, and they appreciate everything you do.”
According to Senior Corps, an organization of volunteers age 55 and older, more than 26 million senior citizens in the U.S. volunteer, which gives them a sense of purpose, but also helps the organizations and people they serve. Multiple studies have shown a link between volunteer work and longevity.
When Nora Lacy moved to Zionsville from Connersville seven years ago, she wanted to get out and mingle, meet new friends and do things. At 88 years old, Lacy had not grown accustomed to sitting around the house all day. Her son suggested that she volunteer at Zionsville Meadows. That’s where she met another volunteer, then-83 year-old Andra Simmonds.Since then, the two ladies have become buds, spending a lot of time together.
“I like having something to do,” said Mrs. Lacy, now 95, a former bank accountant who lives in Zionsville next door to Zionsville Meadows. “My relatives and all my friends are gone. So this keeps me out among people. And besides, I’m going to be here one day, so I might as well get to know everybody.”
Mrs. Simmonds, who is now 90, has spent more than a decade volunteering at Zionsville Meadows. She was a patient in ASC’s Moving Forward Rehabilitation program after a surgery. After her recovery, she and her husband moved into Zionsville Meadows’ Garden Homes. After the death of her husband in 2002, Mrs. Simmonds became a Zionsville Meadows Gift shop volunteer.
As Tetrick and Krewson make their way to an activity at Bethany Village, multiple residents stop them to say hello or to chat. A few of the ladies flirt. The men throw up a hand to say hello. One of them is Mack Polston, 72, who also lived in the apartment building next door but is now receiving rehabilitative care at Bethany Village. Mr. Polston, Mr. Tetrick and Mr. Krewson joke with each other and laugh often about the things each other say.
“I guess they’re OK,” said Mr. Polston, joking about Mr. Tetrick and Mr. Krewson.
Mr. Tetrick and Mr. Krewson, who is 69, spent decades as family men, rearing their children and working. Both men are now divorced. When Mr. Krewson needed care after a serious surgery, he received rehabilitation at Bethany Village and that’s when he fell in love with the idea of becoming a volunteer there. After going through a background check and other screening, he was cleared to volunteer.
But he didn’t stop with himself. He recruited a neighbor, Mr. Tetrick, who also finds happiness in making others happy as a volunteer. “We try to do quite a bit with them,’’ said Mr. Tetrick, who also volunteers at his apartment building when people need transportation to the bank or to the grocery.
“People tell us all the time if it wasn’t for us, they probably wouldn’t go out. But we try to make them happy,” said Mr. Krewson, who worked for nursing homes and home care businesses before retiring.
Senior volunteers can be found in the schools, in organizations and in businesses across the state. They become valuable resources to the organizations they serve.
At Zionsville Meadows, staff and residents are in and out of the gift shop throughout the day, buying items they want. But the highlight of their visit is the chatting, joking and respectful flirting with each other.
“Hello, Mighty Mite,” a resident-customer said to Mrs. Lacy, jokingly teasing her about her petite frame and high energy level. “He always calls me that,” said Mrs. Lacy as she stacked cans of soda.
Mrs. Lacy participates in Zionsville Meadows’ exercise program, New Energy Wellness, which helps her remain spry. She and Mrs. Simmonds say they have always volunteered in the community and they encourage others to volunteer, too.
“If she hadn’t volunteered, I would have never known her,” Mrs. Simmonds said about Mrs. Lacy.