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Thorold volunteer aims to improve lives of older adults

Jean D’Amelio-Swyer has spent the last decade trying to make Thorold a better place for older adults; 'Volunteering is really good for both your mental, physical, and social well-being'

Thorold resident Jean D’Amelio-Swyer is finishing up another term as the chair of the Thorold Age-Friendly Committee.

The committee, which was founded in 2015, aims to improve the lives of older adults in Thorold.

This year, the committee achieved many great things in Thorold: from the ‘chat bench’ in Battle of Beaverdams Park to the free calendar that promotes the City of Thorold as a community for all ages.

“It feels nice to see projects come along,” says D’Amelio-Swyer, in an interview with ThoroldToday. “It takes a while but when you see some progress it’s very fulfilling. It feels like what you’re doing is making a difference.”

D’Amelio-Swyer was born and raised in Thorold and she has always had a heart for the local community.

“I lived here my whole life but I did go to Western University so I was gone for four years,” D’Amelio-Swyer says. “I held a position [on student council] every year. In my last two years I was vice-president and I was president. That was one of the most fulfilling parts. My education being on a student council was as rewarding as getting my degree.”

After moving back home, D’Amelio-Swyer applied everything she learned to her life in Thorold. Between 1982 and 1991 she was a Thorold city councillor.

“I have been involved in the community a long time and I enjoy it,” says D’Amelio-Swyer. “I enjoy the people, I enjoy the challenges. I like learning new things. You have to be flexible. You can’t have one way of thinking. You have to listen to people and sometimes you think: ‘That is not exactly how I would do it,’ but try it!”

D’Amelio-Swyer says she became part of the Age-Friendly Committee eight years ago because she had recently retired and was looking for new avenues to spend her time.

She is also a member of the Age-Friendly Niagara Council and she is chair of the Niagara Older Adults Alliance as well. Having so many volunteering commitments can be a lot to juggle but D’Amelio-Swyer says it’s important to live a balanced life.

“t’s important that we live a balanced lifestyle where we’re volunteering but we also do some other things that we like,” she says. “Whether it’s gardening or doing sports or spending time with family, I think what keeps us healthy is living a balanced lifestyle.”

Having a positive approach to life has helped D’Amelio-Swyer in her volunteer work.

“You have to look at things with the glass half full instead of half empty,” she says. “Don’t look at all the negatives. Look at all the positives and see how you can enhance them. It’s fine if things aren’t good, but what can you do to make things even a little better? That’s what the whole reason for volunteering is.”

D’Amelio-Swyer hopes to serve again on the city’s Age-Friendly Committee during the next city council term.

“We have a long way to go on housing and encouraging not only affordable housing but varied housing options—I see that as very important,” she says. “I think there’s a lot of issues in the healthcare that we have to continue to strive to improve on.”

It’s important for D’Amelio-Swyer to encourage as many other local residents as possible to volunteer their time as well.

“Volunteering is really good for both your mental, physical, and social well-being,” she says. “Most organizations right now are in need of volunteers. Even three or four hours a week can make a big difference. It’s a great way to meet people. It’s a great way to learn new things, to try new projects, to look at things differently and to make a difference in your community.”