Being an active senior can involve anything from visiting shopping malls daily to discuss current events with friends, to running marathons. For native Montrealer Nancy Cooperberg, a 75- year-old married mother of two and grandmother of eight, being active has meant a great deal of volunteer work. That includes being the first woman president of the Shaare Zedek Synagogue in NDG. She has also volunteered extensively at the Cummings Centre for Seniors, as their program services committee chair and more recently incoming chair for the centre’s Aim For Wellness committee, which oversees the development of the Cummings Centre’s Adapted programs which help people who have had a stroke or other neurodegenerative disorders.
“I have been a volunteer since I was 15, and I was looking for a place where I could do some good and enjoy being with people, socializing and learning things,” she says of the Cummings Centre. “It’s led me to all kinds of wonderful experiences, discussing and learning about how to plan programs, and what programs would be enjoyed by people over 50, for which we are now doing an in-depth study.”
And as one of approximately 10,000 people active at the Cummings Centre annually, Cooperberg has also been taking classes for the last five years, creative courses like beading and basket weaving, and attending lectures on interesting topics, such as Jewish gangsters and mobsters of the past, and 500 years of the Jewish ghetto in Venice. “There’s always something to keep your mind actively involved,” she points out.
In fact, Cooperberg, who is celebrating her 57th anniversary in June, was so excited about starting her activities at the Cummings Centre that she convinced her husband Jack to volunteer as a greeter at the entrance of the Westbury Ave. building.
“I just enjoy being with people, which I found right here when I started to come to the centre,” she says. “The warmth, camaraderie and the socialization fills every need that I have. The programs are so varied.”
Cooperberg began her volunteer work and activities at the Cummings Centre after her retirement — she was an office manager in the textile industry, and then manager of an apartment building.
Even before her retirement, she had other important volunteer positions, including co-president of the Jewish General Hospital auxiliary and chair of the Jewish National Fund. “I feel like I’m giving back. I’ve reaped a lot of good things from this community. I’ve had an education, I’ve had a family and everybody has been really happy living here. You have to give back to people who are not quite as lucky as you are.”
Cooperberg is urging other seniors to become active, in general, as well.
“I just can’t imagine not being able to participate in something that will give you fulfillment, something that will inspire you and that you will learn from. Everybody should participate in some way, any way that they can. You have to be involved in something to keep your brain functioning and your body going,” she said, adding. “It’s a wonderful thing to do.”