Keeping Woodworking Alive as we Age
Remember when you were finishing school and people asked you what you wanted to do with your life, and getting advice to do something that complements your talents and gifts? Well, cultivating those talents, gifts and interests are as important when you’re 65 as they were at 17. Nurturing your hobbies will help ensure you have a wonderful retirement, free of boredom.
Retirement and long-term care facilities, as well as community centers, have programs that cater to a wide array of areas of interest for seniors. These programs range from cards, gardening and exercise to crafts, lawn bowling and movies. One activity that’s sometimes overlooked is woodworking. Many residents and retirees were wonderful tradespeople in their day, and that interest needs to be fulfilled in order to help them feel empowered and self-confident. They need to know they can still make wood creations of their own achievement and for others to enjoy.
Ray Vantomme, in the workshop of Calgary’s Kerby Centre. Ray completed these projects and gave them away as gifts. (Photo by Kerby Centre)
Trinity Village Studios
Trinity Village Studios, in Kitchener, Ontario has had a woodworking shop since the facility opened in 2006. It was designed to be user-friendly for all residents, whatever their skill or ability.
Jason Gale, activities director at Trinity Village Studios, says, “anyone who wishes to use the wood shop needs to be assessed to make sure they are safe.” One resident, a retired electrical engineer named Harry, 90, uses the workshop on a daily basis. Harry has made a wide range of things for the facility including a bar, TV stand, suggestion boxes (which have been dispersed throughout the facility) and wine racks that are sold in the tuck shop. Harry gets assistance from volunteer Bill, 74. For Christmas 2013, the residents collectively made a nativity scene. Harry did all the woodwork and other residents painted the pieces. It was a great community project that residents, staff and families admired.
The benefits of seniors being engaged in woodworking projects are many. As Gale notes, “the intellectual and physical stimulation helps residents be cognitively aware, and it gives them a sense of giving back to the community.”
Keith Callbeck, senior manager of marketing and communication at Calgary’s Kerby Centre, a non-profit organization providing programming for the 55-plus age group, agrees that woodworking provides numerous benefits for older adults. “Seniors are able to get out of their home, while staying active and helping others. They gain a feeling of being useful, and it’s mentally healthy.” One great way to preserve the memory is to engage in activities that use both the left and right hemispheres of the brain. This aids in focus, organization, thought processes, improved memory, increased alertness, self-esteem, confidence and more. Woodworking requires you to keep your mind sharp as you work with tools and blueprints.
The woodworking shop at Kerby Centre has been around since the early days of the center in 1975. “We had a woodworking program for several years but have since transitioned to a club that meets every Friday to socialize, and help one another with projects,” Callbeck says. They also have several volunteers who are always present to assist, insure safety, and informally teach new skills. Some of the many projects that come out of that room include articles for fundraising initiatives. These articles include dollhouses, wooden toy trucks, cutting boards, and small shelves. Callbeck shared, “One individual brings in reclaimed wood for cutting sides and fronts for bluebird houses, which he has made with the help of high school students. Part of his mandate is to get students interested in nature, and one surefire way to do that is make something with your hands that will be enjoyed in the great outdoors.” Kerby Centre also has a member who is confined to a wheelchair, and to ensure he is able to fully participate, another member cuts the pieces and then he is able to glue them together, bringing a sense of self-worth and accomplishment.
In short, the purpose of a woodworking shop in a seniors’ center or retirement residence is to provide a facility where individuals can carry out their woodworking/hobby activities. Check out your local community center or retirement residence and see if it has a woodworking program in place. If not, you may want to suggest that one be implemented.