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Local News

'Not as old as I thought I was'

Woman camps for first time in decades

Georgia Hansen, right, a resident at Oak Hill Supportive Living Community in Round Lake Beach, and Shannon Wagner, a manager at Oak Hill, are on a dock at Sunrise Lake Campground last month. This was the first time Hansen has camped in decades.
Georgia Hansen, right, a resident at Oak Hill Supportive Living Community in Round Lake Beach, and Shannon Wagner, a manager at Oak Hill, are on a dock at Sunrise Lake Campground last month. This was the first time Hansen has camped in decades.

ROUND LAKE BEACH – Georgia Hansen remembers camping when she was 10 as a Campfire Girl, but that's a long time ago.

She is 85 now and living at Oak Hill Supportive Living Community on Rollins Road in Round Lake Beach.

Pathway Senior Living, which owns Oak Hill, takes elderly campers to Sunrise Lake Campground in suburban Bartlett. On Aug. 19, the organization took about 30 seniors from around the Chicago area to the campground, including Hansen and Ron Jaworski, 78, another Oak Hill resident.

It's part of Pathway's Camp Viva! program.

"Camp Viva! challenges the way we think about aging," Pathway's Lynn Bunnell said in a news release.

If that was the goal, it appeared to have worked for Hansen, a Chicago native. She said she wasn't sure whether she could handle camping again, noting she is hard of hearing and legally blind.

"I found out I'm not as old as I thought I was," she said.

She and the campers stayed overnight, sleeping on cots.

"I found the cot comfortable," Hansen said. "I had a heck of a time getting out of it. Getting in it was no problem."

When she was a Campfire Girl, she recalls going to the Chain O' Lakes and spending the night there. When she and her late husband, Ronald, both Abbott Laboratories employees, retired about 25 years ago, they moved to Arizona. After he died, she decided to return. For about a year, she has lived at Oak Hill, which has 90 residents.

Over the years, she and her husband fished, but did not go camping.

Living in Chicago, she said, meant few chances at outdoor recreation. And that's one of the reasons she liked being a Campfire Girl – that and the uniform.

At Sunrise, she got to fish again and caught a "nice-sized" bass, but the policy was catch and release.

"It was a great place for people in wheelchairs and walkers. They had all the nurses there. Medications were provided. It was really a challenge, yet we had so much help," Hansen said.

Jaworski, the other resident, agreed, saying he went in the lake.

"I like to be in the water because it helps my body so much," he said.

Hansen said she enjoys living at Oak Hill.

"I looked at several supportive group homes," she said. "Oak Hill was the nicest one I saw. You get to know everyone."

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