You’ve always dreamed of it – retiring and gaining the freedom to pursue your passions and create your own schedule. But whether you’ll focus on travelling, writing, cooking or family, don’t forget retirement’s most important commitment: staying active. 

Capitalize on your new-found free time by filling your schedule with movement. No matter if you prefer formal or informal exercise, frequent movement and muscle engagement fights fatigue, arthritis pain, anxiety and chronic health problems like heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

If you’re not particularly fond of exercise, don’t worry: fitness doesn’t always mean a trip to the gym. In fact, staying active throughout retirement as easy as finding a hobby you love. Just ask Helen Hanselman, resident of The Colonnade, who prefers to take on “mini” movements to stay active.

A miniature wood crafter, 80-year-old Helen was first inspired to try her hand at miniature design after a visit to the Smithsonian Institution in the early 90s.

“I saw a miniature of the White House with rooms identical to the real thing,” she said. “It was a traveling exhibit so large it had to be transported in two 18-wheel trucks. I told my husband Harold that one day I would build a dollhouse. He gave me a kit for Christmas and that’s when it all started.”

That one dollhouse set Helen on a path of creativity, making mini versions of houses with elaborate interior decor. With painstaking precision, she crafts everything from furniture, quilts and clothing, to flowers, food and décor – all at a 1:12 scale. Sharing in his wife’s passion, Harold, 78, has been known to cut and stain ordinary stirring sticks and turn them into beautiful wood floors.

Married 46 years, the Hanselmans moved from their Corte Bella home to The Colonnade in August. “We wanted to scale down to a smaller house with less work to do,” explained Helen. But Harold, who Helen describes as a handyman who can fix anything, seems to have missed the memo on doing less work. In fact, Helen says he can often be found helping other residents when they need assistance.

“If something breaks Harold can fix it, and he’s always available to help,” she said.

When not crafting her mini creations, Helen dreams up new ideas and shares her latest designs with fellow crafters, friends and neighbors. Recently, some of her work was on display in the library at The Colonnade. Her miniatures have also been showcased in libraries and other venues throughout Sun City.

Helen also takes part in exercise and line dancing classes at the community. “I hope to get involved in the craft club here too,” she said.

Take it from Helen: staying active doesn’t always mean step class at the activities center. There are a myriad of ways to stay active, fit, and on-the-go in your Arizona retirement community: let your imagination lead your heels and reap the benefits of great health.



(Originally published June 3, 2013; last updated Jan. 12, 2019.)

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