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Name: Jeanette Onishi
Age: 73
From: Japanese American National Museum, Little Tokyo/Wintersburg Presbyterian Church, Orange County

I think going forward there will be more challenges as we age. Life happens, so I just hope and pray that I’m able to accept those new challenges that come with a sense of gratitude and humility to help me get through it. 

What is your weekly schedule like?

I am a caregiver for my 101-year-old mother, and I babysit my grandson once a week.

Once a week, I am a volunteer docent at the Japanese American National Museum, and I also volunteer with the senior ministry at Wintersburg Presbyterian Church. At church, I’m one of 20 volunteers who help with the senior ministry. We meet once a week, but we are off right now for the summer. We serve about 70 seniors every week, and it’s a great ministry because there aren’t many places where seniors can go where they feel comfortable and safe.

I also take three exercise classes: Zumba, flex and stretch, and circuit training. I’ve been doing this since retirement.

What do you look forward to each week?

Each week I look forward to working with my fellow volunteers at JANM and at the church. They’re all really dedicated, great people. I also enjoy spending time with my grandchildren and my senior exercise classes. And when I can, I like to spend some time free to do what I want to do.

What goals or aspirations do you have now?

My husband and I are going to have our 50th anniversary next year. We also celebrated my mother’s 100th birthday with a party — but every year after that is a milestone, right?

What contributes to your happiness?

Hmm, that’s a good question … well, being around the family mainly.

And also, at the end of the day, feeling like I accomplished something even if it was just being busy. In retirement, I’m happy that I’ve been able to volunteer at JANM. I love working with the staff and the fellow volunteers, who are so dedicated and knowledgeable. Many of the volunteers are seniors.

At Wintersburg, we have various programming and sometimes outings, and we provide lunch. Seniors look forward to coming, and most of us volunteering are seniors. We are seniors helping other seniors, and at one time we had more than 30 people who were age 90 coming to our church.

I’m happy that I’ve been able to do that in my retirement, and work with wonderful people who share my passions.

Has what makes you happy changed over time?

When I was young, I was doing what I had to do for school. As you get older, it changes. When you’re young you think you’ll live forever, and that’s how you live. But as you get older you realize that life is short, and so I think as we get older we start to value our health and family more, so yes, it does change.

I’ve been fortunate that I’ve been healthy. I’m happy that I’m able to do the things I want to do and that I care about.

What three things sustain your quality of life?

Good health, though some of that you don’t have control over. People may do all the right things but still get sick. But you can try to eat well and exercise as much as you can to stay healthy.

Staying engaged, so you have a purpose in life. It’s important to have something to look forward to, to care about like your hobby, your family, your activities … something so that you have a reason to get up and do what you can.

I think one other thing is family support. For example, my husband looks out for my mother when I volunteer. Otherwise it would be hard to do things, so support of family and friends is important too.

Are there any barriers or challenges that prevent you from maintaining your desired quality of life?


Sometimes, there just isn’t enough time to do what I want to do, especially around the house or other personal things I want to do. The hardest thing is to balance responsibility, commitment, and personal time, because you need to care about all of that.

But I think going forward there will be more challenges as we age. Life happens, so I just hope and pray that I’m able to accept those new challenges that come with a sense of gratitude and humility to help me get through it.

What is your biggest accomplishment?

My two great sons, and now their families.

What is it in your life that most influenced the way you live today?

Probably my parent’s example, I think. They worked hard all their lives and their children came first. And I hope that those values carry on to my children.

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