Maine woman still volunteering at 104 years old

Barbara Bean turned 104 in February and said she loves the people she meets while volunteering at the Oldtimers’ Shop in Sanford.

SANFORD, Maine — If you visit the Oldtimers’ Shop in Sanford, you’ll find two things: an abundance of hand-crafted items and the volunteers who keep the nonprofit running.

“A couple of our ladies like to come in just because it gives them a change in their routine,” store manager Linda Millington said. “Their spouse is home all the time, so they want to get out for the day and socialize.”

“It’s wonderful. I love it,” volunteer Raymonde Thibodeau said. “I wouldn’t miss it, and when I do miss a Wednesday, it’s boring at home.”

It’s a special place with a special mission: Every item in the store was made by an aging Mainer living in York County.

One of those makers and volunteers is 104-year-old Barbara Bean. 

Bean has been volunteering at the shop since the early 2000s and still creates knitted and crocheted items to be sold in the store. She’s made everything from mittens to baby sweaters to her own clothes.

“When you’re knitting, you’re accomplishing something, and that’s always good.” Bean said.

She was connected with the Oldtimers’ Shop through the Southern Maine Agency on Aging’s RSVP program. The agency and program serves people 55-years-old and older by connecting them with services and volunteer opportunities in their area. 

“It’s open to folks that are retired or folks that are just interested in helping in their communities,” Mary Hadlock, the RSVP volunteer services director, said. “We are giving back, we’re giving to the community, and we’re just helping to forge these partnerships.” 

Bean volunteers at the shop the first Friday of every month, but she used to volunteer every week. She has an undeniable “can-do” attitude that has served her well throughout her life.

“It starts with attitude,” Bean said. “My whole lifetime, since I was a little girl, I’ve always tried to treat people the way I wanted to be treated. I’ve always done that and it’s always worked out. I have no complaints.”

Her fellow volunteers said her quick wit and charm is infectious. She’s also a great teacher.

“We all want to be like Barbara when we grow up. We’re always saying that, and she’s just totally amazing,” Millington said.

“She’s taught me different stitches and stuff like that,” Thibodeau said. “I started knitting not that long ago, and sometimes I’d say, ‘Oh, I’m gonna go see Barbara,’ and I’d ask her and she would show me.”

Bean doesn’t seem to show any signs of slowing down and will continue to volunteer at the Oldtimers’ Shop as long as she can.

“I’m proud to be 104. I never thought I would make it,” Bean said. “Now, I’m shooting for 110. We’ll see if that happens.”

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