Not all of us will live to be 90. But if we do, will we still be getting out of the house and volunteering? Smiler Haynes, a retired fashion model in Boston who just celebrated her 90th birthday, isn’t letting age slow her down.
“I feel better than the person I helped,” she says about the time she spends teaching reading skills to young people in her community.
“Just giving back is beneficial to me as well as the recipient,” she says. “Being around young people and seeing how you can give positive reinforcement by the things you do feels so rewarding to me.”
The way she sees it, during the five hours a week she spends working with local kids, she gets the chance “to make an impression that could last forever.”
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Haynes, who has four children, eight grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren — so far, she adds — says she has always volunteered, even when she worked full time as a model and a show producer.
“My mother always told me that you need to give back to the community,” she says, adding that there’s a quote attributed to Muhammad Ali that she likes: “Service to others is the rent we pay for our rooms here on earth.”
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Haynes retired at age 62, when her husband fell ill. He passed away 20 years ago.
Since retiring, she has kept busy working with local charities and with her church, Boston’s historic Charles Street African Methodist Episcopal Church. She has been most involved in literacy and education programs, working with the nonprofit organizations Jumpstart for Young Children and Generations Incorporated, now known as Literations, both of which focus on kids preschool-age and older. After many years of volunteering five hours a day, three days a week, she downshifted to her current five hours a week at age 82.
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She recommends volunteering to all seniors — for their own sake as well as the sake of those they are helping.
“I would say to others, keeping busy, keeping your mind on something other than what’s on the TV, gives you an opportunity to see how big this world is,” she says. “You’ll see that the problems you think you have are minuscule.”
She adds: “Move your body and you’ll move your mind. Love everybody!”
Read more about retirement and volunteering:
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