Making “Fun” Important in Retirement Communities

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ccrc grandmother retirement community paA simple visit to her hairdresser led Jean Casanave to a volunteer position that provides a wonderful outlet for her expertise and training. That was thirty years ago. Jean has been a volunteer exhibit interpreter at The Franklin Institute Science Museum in Philadelphia ever since.

Jean graduated from the University of Delaware with a degree in Chemistry and spent several years working for the Hercules Chemical Company. After getting married, she moved with her husband to Philadelphia and spent the next twenty years raising their two daughters. When she was only 53, Jean was widowed.

It was then that she had a casual conversation at the beauty parlor that led to a second career as a volunteer. She recalls, “There was a woman there talking about her volunteer work at The Franklin Institute. I told her that I loved science. She told me they were always looking for more volunteers, and I decided to go and do it.”

At The Institute, Jean and her fellow exhibit interpreters do demonstrations, staff activity carts, and provide explanations for visitors. The museum hosts several permanent exhibits, as well as constantly changing traveling exhibits. Each time an exhibit changes or is updated, the interpreters receive new training. Exploring the exhibits and discussing them with guests provides new knowledge as well. Even after 30 years, Jean says, “I don’t think there has been a day that I haven’t learned something new at the museum.”

The non-traditional atmosphere of The Institute seems to add to the stimulation as well. “This is not a typical museum. It’s really lively, not a quiet place at all. There are lots of things for kids and adults alike to get their hands on, and everyone gets involved,” remarks Jean. Jean has befriended many of her fellow volunteers and says that her work at the museum has “kept her active.”

Jean’s active lifestyle extends beyond her work at The Franklin Institute. Five years ago, she moved to Gwynedd Estates, a continuing care retirement community (CCRC) in Montgomery County. She chose the community because of its “small, family-like” atmosphere. Of her move, she says, “I was ready. I lived in my home for over 30 years, and it was time to move.” Life, she says, has not changed too much since moving. She laughs as she notes, “I just don’t have to cook anymore.”

Always one to get involved, Jean has found that her new community provides even more opportunities to remain active. “There is so much to do here, and the people are really delightful,” she says.

During a visit to a local elementary school with some of her fellow residents, Jean spent her time telling the children about her work at The Franklin Institute. She explained how some of the exhibits are put together and discussed her experiences at the museum over the past three decades. “That was fun,” she says.

Fun is important to Jean. “I love science, and I’ve always loved learning, but The Franklin Institute makes it so much fun,” she says. She hopes to have fun with her fellow volunteers and the Institute’s thousands of visitors for years to come.

For information on volunteer opportunities, call The Franklin Institute Volunteer Office at 215-448-1163

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