Qualityof Life for Mature Adults

Published on Thu, Feb 9, 2006
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Quality of Life for Mature Adults

Positive attitude and fitness key to enjoying life

By Tara Nelson

Joyce Vanderpol’s secret to good living involves healthy competition, positive thinking, and staying busy – even during one’s later years.
The petite “69 and holding”-year-old tennis champion and realtor is bigger than herself. In fact, with her neatly styled hair, glowing complexion and assertively lucid presence, it would be easy to mistake her for someone 20 years younger. The only clue as to her age is her impeccable manners and a request that one man visiting her office abstain from using four-letter words.

Vanderpol began her working career employed with several government entities while her husband served in the U.S. Navy. The two moved frequently but eventually settled in Blaine in 1973, where Vanderpol got a job as an administrative assistant for the port director at the U.S. Customs Peace Arch port of entry.

In 1981, she retired from U.S. Customs and enrolled in Whatcom Community College to earn an associate of arts degree in administration. Two years later, she earned her real estate license and began working as an agent for a local real estate broker. In 1985 – four years after she retired – she opened Vanderpol Realty on Peace Portal Drive. Looking back, she said she just wanted to keep busy.
“I think if you retire and you stay home it has a negative impact on your health,” she said. “And I think you actually age quicker doing that rather than staying busy.”

Vanderpol, however, has done more than just keep busy. In 1987, she started the Skywater Tennis Tournament – the profits of which she donated to the Blaine Chamber of Commerce – served five years on the Blaine airport commission, two years on the Blaine Chamber of Commerce board, and one year on the Blaine parks commission board. In addition, she frequently competes in local tennis matches, once beating a few Blaine high school girls during a match at Semiahmoo Tennis Club and was a finalist in the Bellingham City Open Women’s B Doubles last year.

Today, Vanderpol performs the duties of a full-time realtor, agent, accountant and secretary all within a standard 40-hour workweek. In addition, she makes time to play golf, lift weights as part of a regular workout regimen and compete in pool tournaments at the senior center. When asked how she maintains her energy and sharp wit, Vanderpol credits lots of physical activity, positive thinking and competition both in tennis and in life.

“I like to look on the good side,” she said. “I don’t let little things get me down, or at least, I try not to. Exercising also keeps you feeling young and good and healthy, and I think being competitive makes me want to stay healthy. Being positive about things is half the battle.”

In fact, it seems there isn’t much that can keep Vanderpol down for long. During the last four years, for example, she had rotator cuff operations on both shoulders as a result of wear and tear from tennis playing. As a result, she was forced to quit playing for at least six months while her shoulders recovered.

As soon as her doctor gave her permission, however, Vanderpol was back on the tennis court.

“I think most people my age would have given up,” she said. “But I just love the game.”

When asked how long she plans on playing tennis, Vanderpol said she will keep playing as long as she can.

“Or until I pass out, at least,” she said. “Even if I had another rotator cuff operation. I would keep playing as long as possible. I just can’t see myself giving it up.”

New chief at the senior center

Blaine Senior Center’s new director Cam Oliver has moved from one people-oriented job to another.

Oliver, a Seattle native and long-time juvenile crisis counselor, said he never imagined a career working with seniors but when the opportunity presented itself, he decided he would try something new.

Oliver said he grew up in the Seattle area, skiing every weekend at Snoqualmie ski area with his parents who worked ski patrol, and attending high schools in Seattle and Bellevue during the week.
In 1977, his fondness of the outdoors prompted him to attend Outward Bound, a high-adventure program for young adults in 1977 that eventually inspired him to make a career working with troubled teens in the outdoors.

In 1981, he moved to Whatcom County to attend Huxley College of the Environment at Western Washington University but later changed his mind and switched majors, designing his own curriculum at Fairhaven College.

“I got away from the hardcore sciences and got into the psychology aspect,” he said. “I really wanted to do high risk, high venture stuff with juveniles in the wilderness.”

In 1986, Oliver graduated from Western Washington University with his bachelor of arts degree in therapeutic recreation and emphasis in juvenile delinquency.

Fresh out of college, he began an internship with Northwest Youth Services, a non-profit organization in Bellingham that helps meet the immediate and long-term needs of at-risk teenagers. He was later hired by the organization and continued to work there as a crisis counselor there for 11 years until he gave the job up for a juvenile detention officer position with Whatcom County – a job that often proved disheartening.

“It was an unhappy environment to work in,” he said. “I was more into helping people rather than locking them up.”
So in 1996, Oliver switched to a position that supervised a custody work crew, or a group of individuals that traded jail for work. One and a half years later, he again switched to the Whatcom County parks department to work as a leader in the department’s Teen Adventure Program that included after school educational outdoor activities such as hiking, kayaking, canoeing, and global positioning systems (GPS) navigation.

Working with young adults and seniors has similarities, he said. For one, both jobs require an open ear and demand patience as many individuals are going through a transition in their life. But there are also the differences – some of which Oliver said he finds inspiring.
“Most of us are looking down the road; we’re looking at the future,” he said. “These guys are more focused on right now, today. They also carry with them a broad spectrum of understanding and experiences. You worry about stuff and fret over it and the seniors are the ones who tell me, you know, don’t make yourself sick worrying about it. They’re helpful in that regard.”

The hardest difference, however, is coming to terms with the fact that many residents are often there for a short time.

“I’ve never worked with people who were physically fragile,” he said. “The kids in the outdoor adventure programs just kept coming back year after year and you’d see them again and again. But here, you get connected to someone and then they fall or something and break a hip and then they’re gone. That’s a hard thing for me to adjust to.”

The Blaine Senior Center is continually looking for volunteers. Individuals interested in volunteering or donating to the senior center can call 332-8040.