ICAA Champions: Don Kiser


In 2011, the International Council on Active Aging® launched ICAA’s Changing the Way We Age® Campaign to promote positive views of aging and the value of active aging at every turn. ICAA Champions are individuals and organizations that act as role models and advocates. This blog celebrates these champions.


Don Kiser is “an advocate for living it up.” Born in New Jersey, Kiser leads an active life at Touchmark at Mt. Bachelor Village, a 25-acre retirement community in Bend, Oregon. He sings with a group, golfs, exercises, and walks to raise awareness of Alzheimer’s disease and breast cancer. He enjoys playing bridge and mahjong. And he makes a point of staying up to date with current events. “I’m also involved in different projects,” Kiser says, “such as our woodworking effort to create toys at Christmas for children in need.”


In fact, Touchmark’s active lifestyle and social connections motivated Kiser to move to the community after losing his wife seven years ago. “I like the Full Life Wellness & Life Enrichment Program™ here at Touchmark,” he comments—“the objective that through life enrichment activities, you have the opportunity to keep active. This is the way to age comfortably,” he continues. “It’s critical to have something to do.”


Now in his 80s, Kiser has already done a lot in his life. He enlisted in the United States Army in 1946 and served in the occupation force in Japan. “For a kid coming out of high school, that was an invaluable education,” he shares. Attending Rutgers University on the GI Bill, the Jersey boy then earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering before receiving a master’s degree from Harvard.


A job at Bell Labs in New Jersey followed. A few years later, Kiser made a move to GTE (formerly General Telephone & Electronics Corporation) in Mountain View, California, where he became an engineer in military electronics. So began his 27-year career with the corporate giant, which culminated in his position as president of GTE Laboratories. “This was a fascinating opportunity that stretched my college-based knowledge to the current state-of-the-art practiced by those scientists,” explains Kiser. “I loved it! And I carried a broad smile on my retirement day after a few years in the labs.”


In 1997, after relocating several times in their lives, Kiser and his wife Hazel moved to Bend. “My wife and I were married 58 years,” he says, “and we raised three children together—a son and two daughters.” The couple also had a busy social life. Kiser’s wife loved to cook, and he would frequently return home from work to a dinner party or “a neighborhood party under way,” he recalls. “It was really a marvelous life.”


Kiser’s family is widespread, with only his elder daughter living nearby after a recent move from California. Though he travels and sees his family, he found he was lonely living in his house after his wife passed away. “You don’t see neighbors a lot when you’re suddenly single,” he says. Recognizing he needed more of a social connection and attracted by Touchmark’s activities, Kiser made Touchmark at Mt. Bachelor Village his home. “Being around others is so very important,” he stresses.


Angela Stewart, the community’s Life Enrichment/Wellness director, first mentioned the ICAA Champions program to Kiser. “I liked the idea,” he says, “and I support it.”


As a Champion, Kiser helps promote activities in the community, discussing them with other residents and persuading them to participate. Often, he’ll share his views on a topic. (“It’s important to make things interesting, so people are enticed to go.”) He also encourages his peers to socialize and maintains the activity listings sign near the community’s main gate.


“I feel the importance of and hence a responsibility to support the activities here,” adds Kiser. “People need to know you care.”