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Cheers to volunteers

Here’s to your health

Created date

April 12th, 2016
Sylvia and George Jonovich

Basking Ridge residents Sylvia and George Jonovich say they look forward to expanding their volunteer activities when they move to Lantern Hill.

It's National Volunteer Month—a time to improve your health.


Yes, that’s right, health. According to the Corporation of National and Community Service, a growing body of research indicates a strong relationship between volunteering and health. The research indicates that those who volunteer experience lower mortality rates, greater functional ability, and lower rates of depression later in life than those who do not volunteer.

That’s not news to Erickson Living Director of Operations Jeff Watson. He says volunteering is “part of what makes for a happy and constructive culture, which is why our residents enjoy living on our campuses so much.”

Fulfilling a need

Watson theorizes that, based on statistics from across Erickson Living communities, as people age they become more interested in making a difference and more likely to volunteer. By providing so many various volunteer opportunities on-site, Erickson Living communities like Lantern Hill fulfill a need for retirees. 

In fact, Watson says, “Clearly, one of the things market intelligence finds is that people who are nearing retirement age find opportunities to volunteer important.”

At established Erickson Living communities, residents have hundreds of different opportunities to volunteer on campus. That’s the number of groups, clubs, and activities at each community. And they are all organized and managed by residents. 

People volunteer in any number of interest groups and activities—from religious organizations and choral groups to fitness classes and the on-site woodshop, among many others. 

While many people also volunteer outside of the community, it’s a plus to have so many opportunities to volunteer without having to leave campus, especially when the weather turns sour.

What to expect at Lantern Hill

“In a new Erickson Living community, almost automatically residents step up to fill gaps. They often find a natural fit like the library, and a committee will form to fill those gaps,” says Lantern Hill Executive Director Patricia Swan.

She says that typically in a new community, functional, service-oriented committees form right away, such as the library and Treasure Shop.

An on-site resale store, the Treasure Shop accepts donations of unwanted furniture, jewelry, and other household items from residents and resells them for charity.

Julie Schmieg manages a department of the Treasure Shop called Julie’s Jewels at Cedar Crest, Lantern Hill’s sister community in Pompton Plains. She cleans, repairs, prices, and displays donated jewelry to raise money for the Resident Care Fund. 

“I do it because it’s something productive. It gives me an opportunity to give back when I’ve received all my life. And I enjoy it. I get a lot of reward for myself from volunteering,” she says.

As a new community, Lantern Hill, opening late this spring in New Providence, N.J., has already seen the first glimmer of volunteer activity in its library committee. 

Each Erickson Living community has at least one library, where residents can donate and borrow books. Libraries are run by volunteers, who catalogue and shelve the books, among other jobs. 

George Jonovich has stepped up to lead the library committee at Lantern Hill. While he says the eight-member group has only met once or twice, they are beginning to consider how they will organize the library and collection of book donations. 

“I’m not a librarian—in fact I was an engineer—but I like to do a lot of reading, so I’m interested in having input into what books we have in the library. I also see it as a way to meet people more quickly and to do something for others,” George says.

He and his wife Sylvia will move from Basking Ridge, where they have both volunteered for a number of years. 

The next phase of volunteering, Watson says, tends to be learning-oriented groups. “Former teachers and others offer to lead courses or book discussions based on their interests and passions,” he says.

Finally, the last phase of volunteering that develops at a new community tends to be the most intimate—support groups.

All three of these phases mature as the community matures and makes it a vibrant, caring place to live. 

“People volunteer because they are making a difference in the world,” Swan says.