My Volunteer Experience: A View About Aging and Dying in a Retirement House

Photo: Hudson House/

Most of the times, death seems to be distant in our lives, we live without thinking about it, and especially when we are young, we fantasize about our future and about accomplishing our dreams. Death seems to be so distant, or does not even exist in our vocabulary, because we are young, and we believe that we are unstoppable and we are going to live forever. At a certain age, however, the idea of dying comes along with acceptance, and sometimes, loneliness and fragility. The experience I had in volunteering during last spring made me rethink all I thought I knew about life, fragility, and loneliness.

I volunteered during last spring in a retirement house. I started volunteering on March 25th and I went there every week until April 23rd. The first day I was there, I did not know what to expect, and I participated in a bible study with some women who live there, and because it was near Easter, I also helped with a egg hunt. Also, on Saturdays, I was invited to be a bingo caller.

At the bible study, which happened every Friday, I met some of the women who was living there, and also, the leader of the group, Joy, who did not live there, but was there every Friday, to talk about the bible and mostly, to talk about life. They were all between seventy and ninety years old. During the bible studies, we had some time for reading the bible, and we also talked about our lives, and shared moments and reflections with each other. At the end of each bible study, we prayed for all of the people who lived there, and especially for those who were not feeling well that week.

In one Friday, while Gwen was having very bad headaches, and had scheduled a tomography for the next week, because her doctor was suspecting of a brain tumor, June, who had throat problems, was felling better, and she was thankful that day because she had felt less pain during the whole week.

In all bible studies, they used to emphasize how aware they were about the fragility of their health and about how death was not that distant, after all. Some of them were very happy when they saw me, and for every Friday, I felt part of that group, even though I could not feel the same fragility in my body and regarding life as they did.

Some felt lonely, but they were also thankful about the life they have lived so far. I remember one Friday that Joy, the leader of the group, was talking about forgiveness, and she told us about a very bad thing that happened to her, and it took her forty years to forgive for what had happened to her, and she said that after she finally forgave what happened to her, she had never felt so peaceful in her life, because hate is only terrible for those who feel it.

In conclusion, during the weeks I was there volunteering, I could see how fragile and strong we can be as we are getting older, and especially through the strength and fragility of those women, I could finally understand that, despite our different ages and life experiences and expectations, dying is something that will always make us equal, because it is the only experience that once we are all going to share in our lives.