Building Community, Finding Identity Through Volunteering

Rev. Bill and Helene Patterson are familiar figures around the Twin Towers campus with their volunteer work touching the lives of hundreds of residents. Their ceaseless efforts are instructive as to the importance of
staying engaged and active after one moves to a senior living community. 

“You live a better life if you can find something that you feel is important and can contribute to a community,” says Helene. “That is one of the gifts of senior living communities – you can find a space for you and your identity. It provides purpose for your life.”

The Pattersons moved to Twin Towers 12 years ago as Bill was winding down his career as a Methodist minister; Helene had been a teacher and school administrator.

“As a minister you always are doing a lot of things for the community, so I just kept going,” Bill says.

Indeed, he did. Bill has directed plays and talent shows starring residents, he has been an interim pastor, started Sunday school classes, headed the men’s group, hosted a TV show interviewing residents, and has served on numerous committees. He also published a series of pamphlets written by residents containing their essays on such issues as friendship, family Christmas memories and a collection of limericks.

Helene’s passion is to be an advocate for those with macular degeneration and other vision issues. Working with the Cincinnati Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired, she organizes monthly support groups and manages the five Closed Caption Television units that act as readers for people with low vision. She lobbied for large print memos and menus. “We have a considerable population of people with macular degeneration and vision problems,” Helene says. “In the past, I think the extent of those problems has sometimes been underestimated and underserved.”

Helene’s efforts were recently honored through an annual award presented by St. Peter in Chains Cathedral recognizing outstanding caregivers who live in the area’s senior living communities.

Helene is also a long-time member of The Auxiliary of Twin Towers , predating her move to the community.

The Patterson’s see a theme to their volunteer efforts: “It builds community. That’s the whole point,” Bill says.

Bill thinks that’s especially true for the three projects he is most proud of: the series of resident memoirs and writings, staging resident plays and his TV show “Friday Edition” airing on the community’s closed-circuit channel. “Over the years, I have interviewed perhaps 150 people for the TV show. The idea is that your story is important. Out of your story, you can build a community here,” he says. “And it was gratifying that people responded so thoroughly to our dramatic productions. We’d fill that auditorium.”

Helene and Bill know it can be traumatic for many older adults making the move to senior living communities. They encourage fellow residents to take advantage of what the new lifestyle can offer.

“I know we wouldn’t be in as good health if we weren’t contributing and being a part of a community like this,” Helene says. “It’s like a cocoon. You can sense that there is a safety net provided for you here. Once that stress is removed, you can find your own identity and it can really enhance your life.”

~Story taken from the Spring 2018 edition of Legacy, a publication of Life Enriching Communities