Just two miles from the charming seaside town of Mystic Seaport, Connecticut, lies the serene, resort-style retirement community of StoneRidge. In addition to an incredible variety of on-site amenities and activities, chef-prepared dining, and a state-of-the-art fitness center, residents of StoneRidge keep physically and cognitively active while volunteering both on campus as well as in the town of Mystic.
Volunteering within StoneRidge
Michael Langlois, Community Life Services Director at StoneRidge senior living community, has overseen volunteer efforts for the past three years. He explained that most volunteer opportunities are resident-driven and tailored toward individual interests.
“We point residents to the areas of their interests, rather than having a big volunteer drive,” Michael shared. “This is because some residents are exceedingly active – they drive and get outside of the StoneRidge community, and some even hold down jobs – while others may have difficulty leaving their apartments.”
Residents in independent living might head up a craft or head over to skilled nursing to read to residents or assist in their recreation department, according to Michael. “Our resident council is very active. They oversee 12 committees, such as health, buildings and security, and gardening committees,” said Michael. “Some of our very active gardeners have formed a club called the Perennials. It has about 10 residents. They are very active in planting and maintaining gardens all around the grounds, making sure they are up to snuff and looking really nice throughout each season.”
For the cinephile, StoneRidge’s movie committee hosts watch parties and meaningful discussion about classic films and modern favorites.
Additionally, number-crunchers love the finance committee, an opportunity to get analytical – and a great way to stay mentally sharp!
A favorite among all residents is the partnership with Pine Point middle and elementary schools, located in nearby Stonington.
“Seventh graders come to StoneRidge for our Life Biography Program. Students will sit with about 15 to 20 resident volunteers and interview them to get a sense of the lives they’ve lived. This occurs for about 5 weeks,” shared Michael.
“Then the students take a break and come back to StoneRidge to present the biography they’ve written about the resident they’ve worked with. The residents really look forward to this.”
Seniors also work with Pine Point kindergarteners, reading with them or being read to. “They might work on an art project, or play games with them for an hour in the afternoon. For residents who may not be up to working with the older kids, this provides another great opportunity for them to get involved in the community and share their knowledge and lives with them.”
Helping in the Mystic Seaport Community
Outside of StoneRidge, in the heart of Mystic Seaport, seniors can make their contributions in myriad ways. Mystic Seaport is home to the country’s premier Maritime Museum. “We have a lot of boaters and seniors who’ve been in the Navy, Coast Guard, or have sailed their whole lives,” explained Michael. “And many of our residents have lived on the coast or have been a part of the coastal life over the years. As a result, we have many seniors who are interested in helping at the Seaport in one way or another.”
Michael shared that the historic Charles W. Morgan whaling craft is the world’s only surviving, wooden whaling craft from the 19th century. “It was entirely repurposed about three years ago, and for the first time in 60-70 years, it sailed up and down East coast under its own power. That was a huge event for the Seaport and the region,” said Michael. “That vessel provides an excellent opportunity for our senior volunteers to talk about the history of whaling, and coastal life during that time period as well as what it was like for sailors in the 19th century to be on a whaling voyage for 3-5 years at a time.”
StoneRidge seniors also volunteer to help with Seaport membership drives, help manage museum exhibits, and talk to visitors about the history of the exhibits and the area. “They just love the Seaport and love to be involved,” said Michael. “So whether manning an art exhibit, working in the membership office, or on a ship, the opportunities the Seaport alone provides our seniors are tremendous.”
Another local location where StoneRidge residents volunteer is the Mystic Aquarium. “If you are interested in sea life and preserving the world’s ocean habitat, this is the place to be. They get to make a difference in the planet, pass on their knowledge, tell a story through the eyes of someone that has lived 60-90 years! They can make a connection that no one else can make.”
The Benefits are Endless
Volunteering gives StoneRidge seniors an opportunity to contribute and give back to the community. This is not only beneficial for the community, but emotionally fulfilling for the volunteer as well.
“Whether it’s providing a history of their own lives or sharing historical knowledge about the area with middle school students, bringing joy and sense of fun to younger kids, or helping visitors to Mystic understand the tremendous history of this region and cultural aspects we have to offer here within the community. These seniors are still able to be vital, members while giving back.”
Being out in the community and playing an active role also provides intellectual stimulation. “The cognitive benefits to volunteering are tremendous,” said Michael. “If you are talking about whaling while on a ship actually used for that purpose, and talking to people who prior to coming to the museum had no knowledge of what that life was like, that stimulates you and keeps you sharp.”
Michael said he most enjoys watching StoneRidge seniors make connections. “I get to see how their history really interweaves with the history of this entire region. To hear them talk about the connections they are making, and know that while they share their stories they get to actually see how their lives are integrated into the history of the community, is a beautiful thing.”
To find out how you can become a part of active senior living at StoneRidge, get in touch with us at 860-333-8995.