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portrait of a 93-year-old volunteer
April 8, 2019

Introducing… a 93-year-old volunteer

Madeline Cook has been a volunteer at Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) for over 20 years and has contributed over 3,600 hours of her time. Despite being visually impaired, she makes her way to St. Peter’s Hospital on a monthly basis. She plays piano for an interactive sing-along as part of the therapeutic programming for patients. Madeline recently celebrated her ninety-third birthday!

Madeline playing piano for the patients at St. Peter's Hospital

What do you do?

Over 20 years ago, a friend of mine had wanted to start volunteering at Hamilton Health Sciences and asked if I wanted to join her. We were looking for something to do where we could help people. When we went into the volunteering office, I was asked about my interests. I talked about how I love music. Ever since then I’ve been playing the piano in the hospital. I started at McMaster Children’s Hospital, but since the patients were so young and unfamiliar with the songs I was playing, I switched St. Peter’s Hospital.

I love knowing I can make an impact in people’s lives.

What do you love most about your role?

I love playing at St. Peter’s Hospital because the patients know the songs and can sing along. Although all music is therapeutic, it has a greater impact when you’re familiar with what you’re listening to. I love knowing I can make an impact in people’s lives. As long as one person is enjoying listening to me play or I’ve been able to make someone smile, it’s worthwhile.

Madeline playing piano as part of the therapeutic recreation programming for patients

Tell us about a gratifying experience at HHS.

A patient that I often see seemed particularly down one day so I told her how much I liked her hat that she’d worn the last time I saw her. When she left, I was worried I may have upset her, but next thing I knew she was back with her hat on and a big smile on her face. That was the first time I ever saw her smile and I’m so glad I could help make it happen. Those moments are what make volunteering so rewarding.

What keeps you motivated?

Music keeps me motivated. I sing in a choir and we meet and perform regularly. We are by no means professional singers, but we love what we do. I guess you could also say we motivate and inspire each other too. We not only love to sing, but we love to make people happy with music.