Seniors Across BC: Cool Hands River
River Glen performing in the park
You & Me BC
March 29th, 2022
In Seniors Across BC we profile seniors with unusual hobbies.
This time we meet River Glen: ukulelelist, budding artist, and always up for trying something new.
A NEW SONG
It was a chance meeting for River Glen.
Nine years ago she was attending a meeting at the Britannia Seniors Centre in Vancouver, when a group arrived carrying something that grabbed her attention: ukuleles.
Curious about what the group was up to, she learned they were in a program at the Sarah McLaughlin School of Music.
As part of the program, seniors with low incomes were given the chance to have music in their lives.
River, not having a background in music but interested in trying her hand, soon found herself with her own ukulele, learning the small, stringed instrument which originated in Portugal.
"It started with the basics - the building blocks. You learn a few chords and strums, then you build up to reading music, and then put it all together."
River playing with one of her groups
With her skills developing she began performing, including giving several performances in front of Sarah McLaughlin herself.
"It was tremendous enrichment for us. We got the opportunity to pursue music as much as we wanted to."
With growing passion for the ukulele, offshoot groups began forming to provide extra opportunities to play, including Cool Hand Ukes and a group run by 411 Seniors.
River played with multiple groups, and found the sense of community especially rewarding.
"The social aspect's very important for me."
"Being able to get out of the house and meet nice people. We often played in the park and families would stop to listen. The kids would get excited and we'd teach them to play - it was great fun."
River teaching the ukulele to some youngsters
A NEW CHAPTER
River hasn't just limited herself to music either. Admitting that she "can't draw at all", she started art classes and is learning about drawing contours, portraits, landscapes, and buildings.
For her, ability isn't the important thing; the willingness to give something new a shot is.
"I'm very big into participation."
"It's about trying and sharing with each other. If you have interest in something, I encourage you to give it a try, whether you think you're any good at it or not."
She's recently moved from Vancouver's West End to Surrey, where the next chapter of her story will begin, and where new opportunities await.
While her location has changed, her philosophy remains the same: that no matter her ability level, whatever she does, she does it because it brightens her life.
"In my senior years, with a disability, I give myself permission to only do things as long as I enjoy them."
To get in touch with Spencer van Vloten, editor of You & Me BC, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org