As a minister’s wife, Jackie Hillsamer loved the life she shared with her husband, moving around Indiana as the pastor’s wife at a host of United Methodist Churches.
When her husband died in 2005, they had retired back to Michigan City, and she figured she could go on in the same home alone until about a year ago.
“I wasn’t really able to stay alone anymore,” the 93-year-old resident of Rittenhouse Village at Michigan City, says. “Living alone so long, you don’t realize that you start going downhill fast over time. I wasn’t eating well or taking care of myself. When you live alone, you don’t even realize that it’s happening.”
When she moved in, she suddenly grasped how much time she had been spending alone, how little she was eating, and how she was, quite honestly wasting away.
“It’s been a wonderful move,” Hillsamer said. “I feel better, I look better, and I’m enjoying life here.”
Born and raised in Marion, Indiana, she was honored and motivated when her husband heard the call to the ministry 10 years into their marriage. The couple and their children moved to Dayton, Ohio, so he could go to seminary college, then back to Indiana where they ministered at six different churches over a total of 44 years.
They also raised five children, who never once had to be told to go to church. Hillsamer believes this distinction affected all of their future lives.
“We didn’t ever have to tell them, it’s like they knew that this was what we did as a family,” she says. “None of them went into the ministry, but two of my daughters became nurses and one of my sons became a doctor. They found ways to be in position to help people.”
Hillsamer has 10 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. In addition to the aforementioned medical staff full of children, one of her granddaughters graduates medical school this year, and a daughter-in-law is also a nurse.
Both her time as a minister’s wife and her time in Rittenhouse Village are an excellent reminder to Hillsamer that people the most important part of life.
“In church life, you got to see the best of people and you got to see the other side as well,” she says. “You realize that people are great. There are all kinds of situations, but most of it makes for a very good life.”
Once her health and her appetite came back, Hillsamer began venturing out into her community and finding lots of people to get to know and activities to get involved in, even if she had to teach everyone about her favorite one.
“When I first started here, I would go down and everyone would be playing Uno, but my favorite game was gin rummy, so I’d just sit there and watch,” she recalls. “Finally one of the directors here said, ‘Well, I’ll play with you, but I don’t know the rules so you can teach me.’ It wasn’t long before someone else came along and wanted to try. Now we play it every day and have a couple of tables for it. It’s a good game, and it can keep your mind active because you have to think about it and have a strategy.”
She also partakes in bingo, jigsaw puzzles and ‘Sit and Be Fit’ exercise classes. The myriad of activities keep her busy and out of her apartment all day long.
“If you can’t be in your home, this is the next best place to be,” she says. “There are wonderful people here who are our carekeepers, they are very friendly and helpful. I’m 93 years old, but everyone tells me I don’t act 93. I tell them, I don’t know how a 93-year-old should act so I just am myself.”