By Jessica Messerer-Trosin
As president of the Kamloops Adult Learning Society (KALS), Lois Hollstedt has seen the positive impact that retirees experience when they stay involved and engaged.
Faced with the task of once again making decisions only for themselves, they can be left feeling directionless as their careers come to an end and their children move away and have families of their own.
“I think purpose is the most significant thing in people’s lives as we age. When we have kids and families and jobs, you have all kinds of reasons to get up every day. When those things start to fade away…you have to navigate and now make your own choices,” Hollstedt said.
Hollstedt has been a volunteer for her whole life at numerous organizations, but it was her interest in public affairs that inspired her to get involved with KALS over three years ago.
After moving back to Kamloops from Vancouver she wanted to get reacquainted with the people in the city.
“I started in KALS because I am curious about the world and I like to learn new things,” she said.
A group she still meets with regularly, called News and Views, was the perfect fit for her. Participants discuss current events in the media as well as the information behind the stories, for example.
Two years ago she became the president of the non-profit, charitable organization.
“It gives me a feeling of contribution and when I was asked to go onto the board, it was just a logical step to do something more to make sure that the organization continues because it’s in my own self-interest that it continues for the things I enjoy doing.”
As president she sits on the board of directors and is part of the program committee, which decides on and organizes classes.
At KALS, Hollstedt is sometimes a class host and also facilitates a course on pencil drawing.
Before she retired, Hollstedt had a colourful career. Among other positions, she was the founding president of the Kamloops Y, the CEO of the YWCA in Vancouver and a Kamloops city councillor.
By offering an environment to learn about things that interest them, KALS is one way retired individuals can stay involved in Kamloops.
“Everything from curiosity to relief from everyday living to simply being involved with people who are interesting and debating and understanding and learning and keeping your brain engaged,” said Hollstedt.
A lack of engagement can cause both mental and physical issues, she explained.
Classes at KALS run during two semesters, fall and winter. Each class is taught by a volunteer, usually a peer, and supported by a class host who helps with room setup and similar duties.
Some instructors are retired university professors, Hollstedt said.
“It’s a way for those people to continue their craft. For all of the instructors, it is sharing their expertise and knowledge.”
Most classes are completed in one session, but there are some that span several weeks depending on the depth of the topic.
Popular subjects include religion or history, but there are also classes on topics like putting your garden to bed and ethical investing.
Hollstedt says it’s a welcoming, respectful, non-threatening environment — with no exams.
As an elementary school teacher, Marney Jarman Bethell made a lot of books with the students in her classes.
It’s something she’s continued to do now that she’s retired. So far she has self-published three books, each with their own ISBN.
Her first book, Through His Eyes – Going North, offers a side-by-side comparison of remote Northwest Territories town Fort Rae (now called Behchoko) between 1954-1956 and 2015.
She used the images her father captured in Fort Rae while the family lived there for two years. Ernie Jarman was the town doctor, working under contract with Indian Health Services.
In 2015, she travelled back up to the remote community with her brother and sister and took photos of what the town looks like now.
During the trip they had the opportunity to meet with elders who remembered their parents from 60 years prior.
The book was created with the intention of it being a social studies textbook. The Henry Grube Educational Centre in Kamloops has purchased a half-class set.
“I’m really thrilled that his story and his pictures are in schools,” she said.
Jarman Bethell’s next book stemmed from a calendar she created containing images of the homesteads and barns in Knutsford — an areas just outside Kamloops.
Disappointed with the expiry dates of calendars, she decided to turn the images into a book, titled Knutsford Homesteads and Barns. The book features images shot by Jarman Bethell and historical information about the different parts of the community.
“I’ve had those pictures for a while and I’m delighted with how well they showed up when they’re big like that,” she said.
Her third book, What is Keeta Doing Now?, was originally created as a Christmas present for her partner, Bill. It tells the story of their dog, Keeta, and her adventures on their property.
Plans for her next projects include another set of Knutsford barns, and a book called The Secret Lives of the Knutsford Wives. Every two weeks the “Stitch and Bitch” group meets and this book will feature the unique women and their hobbies.
She is especially excited for the latter.
“[The meetings] get really fantastic. They’re so interesting,” she said.
“All of these women are doing things where they’re continuing to learn and expand whatever their interests are.”
She hopes to interview 30 women for the book in the next two months and then the book will be used as a fundraiser.
Jarman Bethell grew up in Saltspring Island and then lived in Whitehorse, Edmonton and Victoria before moving to Kamloops 22 years ago.
She was a teacher in the Kamloops school district for 21 years, most of which were spent at Arthur Stevenson Elementary School. She also taught in Savona for a year and was the librarian at Ralph Bell Elementary for a year.
Fourth and fifth graders were her favourite because, according to her, they still enjoy school.
As a lifelong hobby, art was a big part of what Jarman Bethell taught in the classroom.
“It’s a great way to show what you know, especially for kids who maybe have trouble with the written word,” she said.
In 2013 she won an award from the B.C. Art Teachers Association.
“It just about knocked me out,” she said.
“It was very exciting to receive it. I had no idea that was going to happen.”
Jarman Bethell, now 62, is enjoying retirement and getting to spend time on projects she didn’t have time for when she was teaching. Six of her eight grandkids also live within one km of her house.
“One of the best parts is not having to hit the floor running,” she said.
“I still often get up early, but I can sit and have my coffee. It’s like every day is Saturday.”
Kathy Meger devoted her life to volunteering and raising her three kids as a stay-at-home mom, and now that her children are grown up, she still spends her time helping others.
Meger says volunteering allows her to continue learning new things.
“I just think that’s so important to keep growing as a person. I don’t ever want to get to an age where someone says, ‘well you can’t talk to her about that. She’s too old or she doesn’t understand.’”
Working with others for most of her life has allowed her to change her view on a number of things.
“I like to think that I am keeping up. I know I can’t keep up with everything, but I like to have the attitude that allows me to hear and understand some of the changes,” she said.
“I’ve changed too and I hope that I can continue to change.”
Originally from Naniamo, Meger moved to Kamloops at 18 when she completed her training as a nurse at Royal Inland Hospital.
She first began volunteering when she spent time in the classrooms at her children’s school. She enjoyed it so much that even when her kids were finished school, she continued help out there.
After that she volunteered as a secretary at her church.
Her church continues to be the place where she spends the most time volunteering because she feels comfortable working with the people who she knows. The projects with personal connections draw her in.
“I really enjoy working with people and I seem to have built up a rapport with people,” she said.
Meger now lives in Pinantan Lake with her husband, Art. She drives into town several times per week to volunteer.
On April 14, she helped to put on a tea and fashion show event for the members of her church.
Two days prior she prepared lunch for some of the clients of ASK Wellness in Kamloops. Usually she cleans up after the lunch, but this week preparing the meal was her job.
“I enjoy seeing these people who come in off the streets and how they care for each other.”
On the day in between the fashion show and the ASK Wellness lunch, Meger spent the day in Kamloops at RIH with a friend.
Meger is a member of the Caring and Sharing group at her church, The Hills of Peace Lutheran Church. The group does some community outreach, but their focus is outreach to members within the church.
She hopes that all retirees find something that makes them happy to take up their time.
“I feel sorry for people who don’t have any other interests. I have known some people who, while they were working, never cultivated any other interests so that when it comes time to retire they don’t know what to do with themselves,” she said.
“A lot of people are happy to retire and travel, but even travelling, you don’t travel 12 months the year.”
Another reason why Meger enjoys volunteering: “If I stayed home all day I would have to do housework.”