Finding Meaning by Helping Others

May is Older Americans Month, and a perfect time to shine a light on what aging looks like today in BHC’s senior communities. Forget outdated stereotypes: many of our older residents are holding down jobs, taking charge of their health and getting involved in their communities.

Danny Gessey is one example of an active BHC resident always eager to try something new.

Image of Mr. Gessey
Mr. Gessey on duty at HFF, with some of his colorful doodles

Mr. Gessey moved to Carter Woods Senior Apartments in Eastern Henrico six years ago. At 69, Mr. Gessey is officially retired, but likes to keep busy. “If you don’t stay active, your mind wanders,” he says. He enjoys camping, fishing and doodling, and likes to post his doodles and camping photos where he can see them often.

Every Tuesday, Mr. Gessey volunteers his time for Housing Families First (HFF), a Richmond-based nonprofit organization that helps families who are experiencing homelessness find stable housing. HFF may have up to 45 families at any given time who need their services. With a lean staff, “we rely heavily on our volunteers,” said Terry Iguina, HFF’s operations and volunteer manager. “It’s so wonderful to have someone like Danny who is committed to coming in weekly.” Conveniently, HFF is located at Carter Woods’ back door, so Mr. Gessey can walk to work.

Mr. Gessey takes his volunteer duties seriously. As HFF’s front desk manager, he answers the phone, greets visitors and directs them to the right place. “It’s a very important position,” Terry says. He’s the first person a family in trouble sees upon their arrival. He also meets donors and helps facilitate their gifts to HFF. “I like helping people,” Mr. Gessey says.

Mr. Gessey (upper right) with fellow mural painters

At home, Mr. Gessey can be found participating in almost all of the social activities at Carter Woods:
celebrating birthdays, dancing with the ladies or doing arts and crafts. With some of his fellow residents, he recently helped paint their community’s first wall mural, displayed in the second floor gallery space.

Mr. Gessey is a living illustration of what we mean when we talk about the need to provide the right environment – and encouragement – for senior residents to “age in place.”

As a young man, Mr. Gessey moved around often because of his father’s military service. He feels he has roots in Richmond now. “Carter Woods is the nicest place I’ve ever lived,” Mr. Gessey says.

Want to learn about how BHC fosters an environment for residents of all ages to thrive? Click here to learn more.

Looking for a volunteer opportunity? Visit HandsOn Greater Richmond or VolunteerMatch.org

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