The Woolwich Memorial Centre in Elmira is typically a hive of activity, filled with residents of all ages taking part in a range of leisure options. Among them are those 55-plus taking in the offerings of the Woolwich Seniors’ Association (WSA).
The WSA has been around since 1985, having started with just a group of local seniors with common interests in activities, many of which are still on offer today.
“I know they had a pool table, I’m not sure if they had much else – this being a community that likes solo, I am sure they played solo and it’s just evolved from there,” said Yvonne Weppler, the group’s president.
After volunteering with the board, on which she served for a year, she decided she wanted to take more of a hands-on role with the association; since then she has served as president for the past three years.
“I figure I am still young enough and active enough to do it, I want to take my turn when I can,” she explained, noting when her time is up she will enjoy using the facilities and programs as a member once again.
The seniors’ centre moved to the WMC when it opened in 2009, provided by the township with their own space.
Many programs, both fitness and recreational, are available through the association. Snooker, yoga, tai chi, carpet bowl, quilting, pickleball, bid euchre, bridge and cribbage among them.
“We have so many programs going on,” said Weppler. “In any given week you could be here at least 24 times.”
WSA coordinator Nancy Lucier says that she sees many members joining the association to participate in a specific program, but rarely do they stick with just one.
“What we find is that people are interested in something that is being offered here, so for example somebody is interested in playing pickleball, then they realize that pickleball is offered by the seniors association and then that brings them through the doors here,” she explained. “Some people don’t realize we are back here, but it is just that one interest that piques them to come back. It just grows from there.”
For many though, the association provides an opportunity to facilitate community interaction in seniors, which is visibly present among the snooker players, for instance, who Lucier says can be found every Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. until 12 p.m. enjoying the game with their friends.
“It is somewhere to go where they can meet people who are interested in the same things, provide them with an activity that they can do, just getting out, really,” she said. “It is a connection for them within the community.”
Although many activities are offered, pool and anything to do with cards are some member favorites.
“This community is really a card playing group,” said Weppler. “In the card games, bid euchre is one of the big ones. Bridge is pretty big as well.”
However fitness classes are very prominent with the group, tai chi and pickle ball among those that really draw people in.
“It is quite an active group,” said Lucier. “They all have their specialties – so everything really has its following.”
Although the seniors association’s dedicated space is rather large, some of the fitness classes are extended into the WMC’s community room. Lucier explained that they have a very good partnership with the Township of Woolwich to be able to offer these sorts of programs.
That relationship grew deeper these past few years when the association partnered with the township to apply for a government grant to provide a separate entrance for the seniors, which was built on the football field side of the WMC.
“It has been wonderful for our members because now they can come directly in here. The driveway does not go all the way around the building so it does not become a race track; you have to come in turn around and come back,” explained Weppler of the new drop-off location and entrance. “The members who do have to use it, don’t have to walk from a handicap spot out in the front to the building, through the building, down the hallway – they can be dropped off right here and with five or six steps they are in the room. So the ones that use it love it.”
Another community partnership the association conducts is the one with the youth centre – located on the other side of the WMC. Each month the youth, led by Ashley Gerber, put on and help with the serving of a dinner for seniors
“She is fantastic, she brings a team of students over and they actually help serve the dinner, clear the dinner, serve the juice and dessert coffee tea and things like that,” said Lucier of Gerber. “All of the feedback that I’ve gotten, it is all positive from the seniors, they love having them come over. They are just a really exceptional group of kids and that has been really a nice partnership for us. It’s a really neat connection for people to have the young and the seniors of our community getting together, it has been really good.”
Currently there are 330 members at the association, with some 300 being active. Their eldest member will be turning 100 in the spring. When a member reaches their 90th year, their membership fee is waived and a special dinner is held to celebrate.