Jean Hicks, a resident at Woodland Pond, brings her poodle, Brea, to cheer up residents in skilled nursing.

84-Year-Old Woman Defies Age Stereotypes

With a zeal for life, a passion to help others and a strong curiosity that drives her to try new things, Jean Hicks, a resident at Woodland Pond, has been defying her age for quite some time. She not only participates in the many organizations and activities offered at Woodland Pond, a continuing care retirement community in New Paltz, she organizes and leads many recreational programs herself. From strength training to duplicate bridge to pet therapy to gardening to bird watching to library committee work, Jean explores all of her interests and hobbies.

“When I retired, I decided I was going to do something every day to keep my body in motion,” shared Hicks. “I feel better when I am active and engaged in life, rather than letting it slip past me. I have a lot of curiosity and have been doing things for myself and for others all my life. I grew up in a family that raised me to help others in the community. I find joy in volunteering my time to lead a strength training class, check out people at the Market Basket, bring flowers to people in skilled nursing and organize bird watching groups. It is nice to see smiles on people’s faces when you do something good for them.”

Hicks leads the weekly strength training class on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. The group consists of 18 to 22 people each session. She enjoyed doing strength training so much in her hometown of Dutchess, that she continued doing it in her apartment at Woodland Pond. Within a short period of time, other residents began joining her and eventually they had to move to a common workout area, as the class grew in such popularity. Hicks enjoys teaching the strength training class because she has witnessed positive results in both herself and others. She no longer has joint problems from a ski accident, and other residents have experienced alleviated pain and discomfort from aging as well.

“When I first came to Woodland Pond in 2010, I started leading a bird watching group,” said Hicks. “The group meets spontaneously to observe unique and rare birds outside. With the advances in technology, we are now able to observe birds and their nests via cameras that connect to and display footage on the Internet. This has become a very popular way to study the birds in their natural habitats.”

In addition to leading bird watching groups and strength training classes, Hicks takes her dog and vases full of fresh flowers to the health center several times a month. Her poodle will interact with people in skilled nursing, and fills the need of pet therapy. The flowers come from a garden that she grows outside of her residence. She refreshes the vases every four to five days.

“While everything I do brings me happiness, I think playing duplicate bridge is one of the most fun things that helps keep my mind sharp,” said Hicks. “We meet every Thursday afternoon. About 15 to 20 people play each week and dining services provides refreshments while we play. We can get kind of competitive, but it is all in good fun. To challenge myself a bit more, I plan on taking some classes offered to Woodland Pond residents in the fall at Marist College in Poughkeepsie. Just because I am 84 does not mean that I am done learning or applying my brain!”

Hicks is involved in many different activities and interest groups at Woodland Pond. The community offers meetings and outings that help residents explore interests in charades, poetry, singing, concerts, shopping excursions, operas, fitness routines, language classes, play reading, gardening, dining, brain teasers, Chinese movement classes, knitting and crocheting, movies, happy hours and much more. Hicks says that anything you could possibly want to participate in is available, and, if it is not, you can approach the staff and the idea materializes.

“We try to fulfill as many interests as possible, which is easy when motivated seniors like Jean Hicks help design and initiate different programs,” expressed Robert Seidman, executive director at Woodland Pond. “Graceful aging comes from staying socially, mentally and physically active. Engaging with others and with life in various ways fulfills our need as humans to share experiences with one another, build relationships and create challenges that turn into cherished memories.”

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