When Geraldine Hinton was seven years old, she held a circus in her backyard and raised $7.50 for the Red Cross.
It’s a story Hinton recalls with some amusement and it demonstrates her lifelong approach to community service. Hinton’s volunteer work for the Alzheimer Society of B.C. dates back 20 years, while her career in support and advocacy for people living with dementia stretches back even further. Hinton, former executive director of B.C.’s Office for Seniors, is heavily involved with Veterans Memorial Lodge at Broadmead and over the years has taken on various volunteer roles with Vancouver Island’s Beacon Community Services and St. John Ambulance.
Despite the depth of her personal and professional commitment to serving seniors and people living with dementia, it came as a surprise to Hinton when she was recognized with a B.C. Community Achievement Award.
“I was a bit overwhelmed,” she says. “I wasn’t expecting it at all. I feel profoundly honoured because so many people in the community do so much. We never do it by ourselves.”
Hinton has long been attuned to the power of community, both as a leader and caregiver. In the ’90s, Hinton was a caregiver to her husband Peter, who lived with Alzheimer’s disease. While Peter attended an early stage support group, Hinton began experiencing a spontaneous support group of her own. She bonded with the other caregivers waiting in the lobby while their family members or partners attended the session and eventually they dubbed themselves the Lobby Support Group.
“I knew the Alzheimer Society was a resource for me,” she says. “We were on a profound journey and I felt the support from the Society right from the beginning.”
Hinton is an organizing committee member of the Breakfast to Remember fundraising event in Victoria, a member of the Society’s Dementia-Friendly Communities Leadership Group for Caregivers. In 2016 Hinton was presented with the Alzheimer Society of B.C.’s Clyde and Lanny Slade Memorial Leadership Award for her commitment to creating a better world for people living with dementia.
Hinton maintains tight ties to Veterans Memorial Lodge at Broadmead, a residential care home where Peter, a Second World War veteran, lived during the last year of his life. Inspired by her husband’s love for classical music, Hinton has worked hard to bring music into the lodge, which now hosts classical concerts and offers Music and Memory, a program that provides residents with access to a collection of musical artists. She has also taken up the cello, a skill she endeavours to share with her community alongside a group of other enthusiastic amateur cellists.
“It gives me great joy. It feeds my soul and my heart,” she says. “If anyone wants to feel warmth and joy of life in their later years – choose to volunteer with people.”
To learn more about you can get involved as a volunteer, visit alzbc.org/volunteer.