Nina Olmedo-Jaquenod doesn’t believe in barriers. When others ask “Why?” she asks “Why not?”
The 84-year-old grandmother of three plays tennis twice a week, walks around Lake Merritt regularly and volunteers in her Oakland community. A retired educator, she also holds four master’s degrees and is fluent in English, Italian, French and Spanish.
All of that and an Episcopal priest, as well.
“The first-ever Hispanic woman to be ordained in the Anglican church,” she says with a hearty laugh. “I felt the calling and responded. I never intended to make history, I just love people.”
A native of Argentina, Olmedo-Jaquenod loved the traditions of her Catholic upbringing — the liturgy, the solemn beauty, the people.
“But in Catholicism, women aren’t allowed to preach,” she points out. “I chose the Episcopal church because they’re liberal and very open.”
The journey was not always easy, however. Not everyone accepted her decision.
“But I made it,” she says. “I made it.”
That was 33 years ago. Although she retired in 2007, Olmedo-Jaquenod still preaches once a week at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco and is a volunteer chaplain at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Oakland.
“I’m busier now than before I retired,” she says.
Two years ago, Olmedo-Jaquenod began looking for a retirement community. Even though she was doing fine in her condominium, she knew that her two sons (one is in the entertainment business in Hollywood, the other is a successful Bay Area businessman) were worried about her living alone.
But with her diverse interests and love of life, no ordinary retirement community would do. It had to be unique. Olmedo-Jaquenod wanted a community with a vibrant social calendar, plenty of leisure activities and interesting people. When she found ABHOW’s Grand Lake Gardens, she knew she had come to the right place.
“The first thing I noticed is that the people here are so congenial,” she recalls. “I like to laugh, and I like to talk. I always say, ‘Life is short; be happy!’”
From her apartment window, Olmedo-Jaquenod can see the gardens, which she describes as “beautiful” and “peaceful.” Shopping and dining options are a short walk away. When she’s not making the trek to the lake, Olmedo-Jaquenod can often be found in the exercise room, taking advantage of one of Grand Lake Gardens’ many classes or playing ping-pong. She also teaches a Spanish class for her fellow residents.
“Moving to Grand Lake Gardens was the best choice for me,” she says. “Here I have plenty of things to do, and I’m not alone. I’m never bored.”
Founded in 1949, ABHOW is widely known for its pioneering leadership in senior housing and health care. The company serves more than 5,000 residents in 42 retirement communities in California, Arizona, Nevada and Washington.
To learn more about ABHOW visit www.abhow.com.
This article appears in the July 2012 issue of ABHOW Words.